Two House Democrats called upon the Department of Justice’s Acting Inspector General Cynthia Schnedar, who is investigating the department’s failed “Fast and Furious” gun walking operation, to deliver her report before the 2012 November elections pass.
Congressman Nick Rahall, West Virginia Democrat, and Congressman Gene Green, Texas Democrat, are among Democrats who sent a letter to President Barack Obama on June 3, 2011 “expressing serious concerns about the Administration’s response to investigations of the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF) “Project Gunrunner” and its offshoot known as “Fast and Furious.” In the joint letter, 31 Democrats write:
“Reports of the tactics used in this operation are extremely troubling. The ATF allegedly encouraged gun store owners to sell thousands of firearms to customers whom store employees considered suspicious. Our concerns were heightened with news that one of the firearms sold may have been used in the murder of a Border Patrol agent. These allegations call into question the judgement of the agents involved. It is equally troubling that the Department of Justice has delayed action and withheld information from Congressional inquiries.”
The letter later states:
“We urge you to instruct the Department of Justice to promptly provide complete answers to all congressional inquiries on this issue.”
It has been over nine months since Rep. Green and Rep. Rahall, among other Democrats, sent their letter to the president. I asked Congressman Green if he believed if the IG is taking too long to release the report on the Fast and Furious operation.
“Yeah. They ought to deal with this problem, because there is no reason at all that that many weapons should have made it over to Mexico to be exported into Mexico without controls on it and it’s such a black eye on the ATF and the Department of Justice and our government that we allow that to happen,” Rep. Green said.
“I know there’s embarrassment at ATF, and I know this program is not just under President Obama. It was going on previous to that, but they ought to deal with it. They ought to clean it up and make sure that doesn’t happen,” Mr. Rahall stressed.
Rep. Rahall added, “Pending that report, I have a great deal of confidence in [Eric Holder]…pending my reading of that report, that is.”
Rep. Ron Kind, Wisconsin Democrat and fellow letter signer, said that he hopes that it is not the case that the IG is moving slowly. “We want to see these reports…these investigations proceed expeditiously, because if there are things that need to be fixed, we need to be working on that right now other than delaying it any further.”
“You’re not going to ask for an expedited review and sugar coat it either,” Rep. Kind said of the letter he co-signed with 30 other Democrats. “Part of the reason of the letter was to let [President Obama] know that there are members of Congress who are concerned about getting this investigation to a conclusion as quickly as possible. And that’s really the purpose behind the letter.”
Attorney General Eric Holder has yet to release the remaining documents from the 80,0000 files both Senator Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary, and Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican and Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, have asked for.
“Obviously, he’s in charge of the agency, but I don’t get the sense that he was directly involved with issues that led to some of the action that was taken down there,” said Rep. Kind of Attorney General Eric Holder. “…but the buck’s got to stop somewhere.”
Sen. Grassley and Rep. Issa have publicly remarked over the last year that the Justice Department has been delaying the release of the 80,000 pages of documentation related to the Fast and Furious operation. In one particular statement, Sen. Grassley said:
“Since January 2011, Chairman ISSA and I have been stonewalled by Attorney General Holder and by other people in the Justice Department regarding our investigation of Operation Fast and Furious. This deadly operation let thousands of weapons ‘‘walk’’ from the United States into Mexico. Despite the fact the Department of Justice inspector general possesses over 80,000 relevant documents, Congress has received only around 6,000 in response to a subpoena from the House Oversight Committee. Even basic documents about the case have been withheld by the Justice Department. Yet the Department insists on telling us— and before they tell us, they seem to tell the press—that they are cooperating with Senator GRASSLEY and Congressman ISSA.”
Both Issa and Grassley questioned just how independent Inspector General Cynthia Schnedar’s probe truly is. According to a report from Fox News, the IG’s office chose “not to interview high-level political employees in the Justice Department.”
Congressman Tim Holden, Pennsylvania Democrat, another lawmaker who signed the June 2011 letter to President Obama, mentioned to me on Wednesday that he found the report about the DOJ political appointees who have not been interviewed by the IG to be “unusual.”