House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa and Sen. Chuck Grassley lambasted Attorney General Eric Holder in a new letter detailing how Holder’s team has failed to provide congressional investigators with critical details surrounding the connections between Operation Fast and Furious and a second federal agent’s murder.
The two top Republicans wrote to Holder on Tuesday criticizing what they said was the Department of Justice’s late and lacking response to Grassley’s March 2011 request for details about the murder of Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer Jaime Zapata. “Not only was the response more than six months late, it completely failed to answer the key questions,” Issa and Grassley wrote.
Issa and Grassley then detail how the DOJ’s severely late response is still rife with inconsistencies. Zapata was murdered in Mexico on February 15, 2011. At least one firearm involved in Zapata’s murder was traced back to Otilio Osorio, his brother, Ranferi Osorio, and their neighbor, Kelvin Morrison. The DOJ arrested the three, and in a March 1, 2011 press release announcing the arrest, revealed that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives had been investigating since early in November 2010.
Otilio Osorio made the weapons purchase, which included a gun linked to Zapata’s murder, on October 10, 2010. On the same March 1, 2011 press release announcing the three men’s arrests, the DOJ said it was unaware of the weapons purchase.
“According to ATF documents, however, the agency had reason to believe as early as September 17, 2010, that Otilio’s brother and co-habitant Ranferi Osorio and their next-door neighbor Kelvin Morrison were straw purchasers,” Issa and Grassley wrote. “Yet the ATF apparently made no effort to contact Ranferi Osorio or Kelvin Morrison and inquire about how their weapons came to be trafficked to Mexico within two weeks of their purchase.”
“Moreover, it appears that the ATF had an opportunity to arrest the Osorio brothers and Kelvin Morrison during a staged operation on November 9, 2010,” Grassley and Issa add. “According to a DOJ press release, ‘a Dallas ATF confidential informant (CI) arranged a meeting’ at which the Osorio brothers, arriving at the meeting with Morrison as a passenger in their vehicle, ‘unloaded several large bags containing firearms into the CI’s vehicle, which was kept under surveillance.’”
Issa and Grassley add that they have documents they say indicate the ATF didn’t write a “Report of Investigation” about the November 9, 2010 weapons transfer “until over three months later, on February 25, 2011.” That day is, Issa and Grassley point out, “the same day ATF received the report tracing the Zapata murder weapon back to the purchase by Otilio Osorio.”
“Documenting investigative steps three months after the fact and only after a trace returned to the murder of a federal agent raises red flags about the nature of ATF’s investigation,” they wrote.
Grassley and Issa ask Holder to clarify all the details and finally provide the information the DOJ has been withholding. They gave Holder until noon on November 8 to respond.
The two top Republicans added that Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn, who serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee with Grassley, has indicated a particular interest in these answers as well.