Issa camp says Washington Post wrong on Gunrunner story

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter
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A spokesman for Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican and the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, told The Daily Caller that the Washington Post is the only news organization to bite on new misleading sentiments from the Justice Department.

A Wednesday Washington Post story used anonymous Justice Department sources to bash Issa’s investigation into Project Gunrunner and Operation Fast and Furious.

The anonymous sources claimed that Issa attended a classified April 2010 briefing for members of Congress and their staffers about the programs that have allowed American guns into Mexican drug cartels’ hands.

Issa spokesman Frederick Hill told The Daily Caller the Post is the first newspaper to run these DOJ claims, but not the first one the Justice Department went to with them.

“We have had people who have contacted us before the Washington Post,” Hill said. “They told us people in the Justice Department were trying to push this story and I think a number of publications didn’t think it was credible or, for whatever reason, decided not to run it.”

Hill said there was a briefing that Issa attended back in April 2010 on a similar subject. “There were questions at the time about the number of U.S. weapons that were ending up at Mexican crime scenes,” he said. “Basically, [it was about] the efforts of the ATF to stop cartels from doing this.”

Did gun walking or Operation Fast and Furious come up at that briefing at all? Hill says “they certainly did not.” (Issa warns ATF not to retaliate against whistleblowers)

It’s unclear at best whether or not the Justice Department plans to stick to this new story. But, Hill said the new meme shows how “desperate” some employees are there. DOJ spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler originally did not return TheDC’s requests for comment on whether or not the DOJ is sticking with the new storyline. But, if the agency does, it strikes a stark contrast to what Attorney General Eric Holder and his deputies have been saying for months now: They didn’t know anything about this.

Now, though, Schmaler refuses to comment on what she and the Justice Department consider “conspiracies” about anonymous stories and sources.*

“They seem to be drastically shifting their stories, even if the story they’re telling now is just another lie,” Hill said. “For months, they’ve been asserting that they had no knowledge that this was ever happening. Now, it seems like they’re radically trying to change that and assert that not only were they aware of this, but that they were telling members of Congress all about this.”

On the transparency front, the Obama administration hasn’t provided most of the documents Issa has subpoenaed or requested, nor have officials answered similar requests from Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican. Hill said DOJ’s new meme, if the agency plans to stick to it, doesn’t hold up there either.

“If they were so free and ready to give Congress information on this, which was not the case, well why is it that they’re so unwilling now to share any information with Congress,” he said.

As for why Justice Department officials would anonymously speak to reporters at what’s perceived to be a left-leaning publication to try to push a false meme into the public sphere, Hill said there’re lots of people worried at DOJ. “There are lots of people in the Justice Department who were involved in the gun walking of Operation Fast and Furious,” Hill said. “And, I suspect a lot of people, right now, are looking at their mirrors in the morning and wondering if they’re still going to have a career six months from now because of the wrongdoing that occurred there. There are people who are clearly in a desperate position at the Justice Department.”

The Washington Post’s reporters also ignored a major part of Hill’s statement when writing their story on the matter. “They left the parts out where we told them that a staff member from Ranking Member Cummings’s [office], who has been working on the Fast and Furious investigation, was also in that briefing,” Hill told TheDC.

That part of his statement walks through how the Wall Street Journal had already debunked the meme, too. “The April 2010 ATF briefing on weapons smuggling by criminal cartels included a staff member of the Democratic staff of the Oversight Committee who has been working for Ranking Member Cummings on the Fast and Furious investigation,” the part of Hill’s statement to the Post that its reporters ignored read. “This Democratic staff member has never indicated to Republican staff that he had any prior awareness of the gunwalking that took place in Operation Fast and Furious and the recollections of Republican staff who attended this briefing have already been reported in the Wall Street Journal.”

On top of all that, one of the two Post reporters in the story’s byline, Sari Horwitz, is a known plagiarist. She plagiarized at least two stories during her reporting on the shooting of Rep. Gabby Giffords, Arizona Democrat.

The Post’s executive editor, Marcus Brauchli, did not return TheDC’s request for comment on why he allowed a reporter with a history of plagiarism to use anonymous sources to bash a Republican.

*This story has been updated to reflect the fact that the DOJ has now refused to comment.