Breaking: Melson being bounced out of ATF?
posted at 12:05 pm on August 30, 2011 by Ed Morrissey
Ken Melson may be out of a job as the acting head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. CBS News reports that Melson will get “moved out” of ATF to a desk in the Department of Justice, just weeks after he defied the DoJ and testified to Congress (via Dave Workman and Mad Saint Jack on Twitter):
Sources say ATF Acting Director Kenneth Melson is being moved out of the top job at the Bureau. It’s not yet publicly known where he would go, but sources inside the Justice Department believe one option is a transfer to a position at Department of Justice headquarters. The Justice Department had no immediate comment, and did not confirm the move.
Melson’s move would be another in a number of high-level personnel shifts, as the Inspector General continues investigating the so-called gunwalker scandal at the Justice Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
The LA Times reported that Melson would resign, an act he specifically rejected in July:
Kenneth E. Melson, under fire in connection with the controversial Fast and Furious gun-trafficking investigation, will announce today that he is stepping down as acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Sources tell The Times that Melson was to share the news in a conference call at 11:30 a.m. EDT with supervisors at the bureau’s field offices.
But there may be a reason that Melson changed his mind:
An investigation by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), uncovered emails that showed Melson was regularly briefed on the botched operation.
From the CBS News report, however, it sounds as if the action isn’t coming from Melson’s own volition. And that raises a question about whether the administration is retaliating against Melson for his Congressional testimony. Tina Korbe noted four potential takeaways from Melson’s secret testimony as suggested in a letter from Darrell Issa and Charles Grassley to Eric Holder immediately afterward:
- The ATF isn’t the only agency to bear some responsibility for the botched operation that sent guns to Mexico. The Federal Bureau of Investigations and the Drug Enforcement Agency seem to have possessed information that could have had a material impact on Fast and Furious (i.e. info that could have eliminated or reduced the ostensible ‘need’ for the operation in the first place). Or, as the letter puts it, “We have very real indications from several sources that some of the gun trafficking ‘higher-ups’ that the ATF sought to identify were already known to other agencies and may even have been paid as informants.”
- Taxpayer money was likely used to finance the gunrunning. “The evidence we have gathered raises the disturbing possibility that the Justice Department not only allowed criminals to smuggle weapons but that taxpayer dollars from other agencies may have financed those engaging in such activities.”
- Senior ATF officials would have preferred to cooperate with Congressional inquiries — but “Department of Justice officials directed them not to respond and took full control of replying to briefing and document requests from Congress.”
- Melson was at no point asked to resign.
If the “resignation” follows this quickly after Melson spilled the beans, then the Inspector General may have a new issue to investigate.
Update: Reuters correspondent Jeremy Polofsky reports that Melson will be replaced by B. Todd Jones, US Attorney for Minnesota. Jones created little controversy in his second term in that position. This MPR profile is one of the few news reports about Jones I could find.