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After getting off the plane, Mr. Melson alerted then-U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke in Phoenix, who oversaw the Fast and Furious invetsigation, to his concerns about the inaccuracies in the letter. And he sent a email to several subordinates inside ATF titled “Hold the presses,” specifically urging that the Justice Department correct the record.

“We have to change … the statement in the first Grassley response that was actually sent,” Mr. Melson wrote his subordinates, according to excerpts in the September report of the Justice inspector general.

After emailing his subordinates inside ATF to correct the record, Mr. Melson sent a separate email 10 minutes later Associate Deputy Attorney General Matt Axelrod to advise him of his concerns.

The Justice IG recounts the email this way: “Rather than title his e-mail, ‘Hold the presses,’ Melson simply entitled his e-mail to Axelrod ‘F and F.’ Additionally, instead of describing his concerns about the February 4 response to Sen. Grassley, as he had done for his ATF colleagues, Melson simply said to Axelrod, ‘you need to read the [Title] III affidavit, still under seal. Changes some things.’

Melson thereafter sent at least two additional e-mails to Axelrod referencing the paragraphs in the wiretap affidavit dated July 2, 2010, which concerned him,” the IG found.

Mr. Axelrod told officials he did not think Mr. Melson’s warning was raising specific concerns about the letter to Mr. Grassley but instead spurred recognition that more issues needed to be investigated.

In his deposition to Congress, Mr. Melson lamented the conduct of Justice Department officials in dealing with Congress, suggesting misinformation may have been used to protect the president’s political appointees.

“It was very frustrating to all of us, and it appears thoroughly to us that the department is really trying to figure out a way to push the information away from their political appointees at the department,” he testified.

A congressional aide familiar with the Fast and Furious investigation told the Washington Guardian that while Mr. Melson’s description of the March 2011 events did not make it into the latest congressional report, it could be important to House Republicans’ efforts to persuade the courts to reject Mr. Obama’s claim of executive privilege.

The House has gone to court to force the administration to release numerous memos showing how it handled the Fast and Furious matter with Congress and the public after the Feb. 4, 2011, letter to Mr. Grassley.

“We believe any effort by the executive branch to slow walk or obscure the truth from Congress is a matter of legitimate oversight that can provide answers to the American public about this administration’s candor,” the investigator said, speaking only on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the news media.

The aide disclosed that earlier in the summer White House lawyers let House Republican leaders see some of the withheld Fast and Furious documents, hoping to reach a deal to avoid the court fight.

The aide said in addition to Mr. Melson’s emails, the Republicans were shown a second email from a senior Justice Department official showing the administration knew its account denying gun walking was inaccurate long before it corrected the record.

In the second memo, then-Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein wrote in August 2011 that the administration’s denial of gun walking was “no longer operative,” the aide said.

That email is referenced in a little-noticed appendix to congressional investigators’ first report on the Fast and Furious scandal issued in the summer.

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