Eric Holder removes acting ATF director amid Fast and Furious scandal

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter
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Attorney General Eric Holder announced on Tuesday that he’s pulling Ken Melson out of his position as acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

According to the Justice Department, Melson will take on the role of a “senior adviser” in the DOJ’s Office of Legal Policy.

“Ken brings decades of experience at the department and extensive knowledge in forensic science to his new role and I know he will be a valuable contributor on these issues,” Holder said in a statement.

Holder named Minnesota district U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones to take over as acting ATF director.

“As a seasoned prosecutor and former military judge advocate, U.S. Attorney Jones is a demonstrated leader who brings a wealth of experience to this position,” Holder said about picking Jones. “I have great confidence that he will be a strong and steady influence guiding ATF in fulfilling its mission of combating violent crime by enforcing federal criminal laws and regulations in the firearms and explosives industries.”

The shakeup comes in the middle of House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa’s investigation into Operation Fast and Furious. Melson secretly met with congressional investigators from Issa and Sen. Chuck Grassley’s team on July 4 and provided them with information about the program.

“While the reckless disregard for safety that took place in Operation Fast and Furious certainly merits changes within the Department of Justice, the Oversight and Government Reform Committee will continue its investigation to ensure that blame isn’t offloaded on just a few individuals for a matter that involved much higher levels of the Justice Department,” Issa said in a statement.

Issa said he remains “very concerned” about Melson’s claim that the DOJ “is managing its response in a manner intended to protect its political appointees.”

“Senator Grassley and I will continue to press the Department of Justice for answers in order to ensure that a reckless effort like Fast and Furious does not take place again,” Issa said.

UPDATE 1:44 p.m.

Arizona’s U.S. Attorney, Dennis Burke, has resigned from his position as well. He has not been reassigned. Arizona Republican Rep. Paul Gosar said Burke’s resignation and Melson’s “demotion” are “only small steps on the long road to accountability for the Department of Justice.”

“As the only Arizona congressman who serves on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, please be assured I will continue to press the Department of Justice for answers about Operation Fast and Furious,” Gosar said in a statement. “I must not rest until the American people are informed about who authorized the program, who allowed it to continue despite grave misgivings on the part of dedicated ATF agents, and who is responsible for the lack of transparency from DOJ thus far.”

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