Chaffetz: Why won’t the White House let us talk to Fast & Furious witness?

posted at 9:51 am on April 9, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

A duly constituted Congressional panel has requested to speak to a material witness in an ongoing investigation.  The witness himself has indicated through his attorney that he’s willing to testify under oath.  So what could possibly go wrong?  Well, in this White House … plenty.  The House Oversight Committee has requested that the Obama administration make former National Security staffer Kevin O’Reilly available for testimony to explain a series of e-mail exchanges in Operation Fast and Furious in order to determine just how far up the chain knowledge of the operation went in the Obama administration.  The White House has refused to make him available, even though O’Reilly has already agreed to testify, and that has Rep. Jason Chaffetz angry:

Utah Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz told the Fox News Channel’s Megyn Kelly on Friday that although a key White House witness in the ill-fated Operation Fast and Furious gun-walking program is willing to testify about what he knows, the Obama administration won’t let him appear before Congress.

White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler sent a letter Thursday to Republican lawmakers Rep. Darrell Issa and Sen. Chuck Grassley, refusing their request to speak with Kevin O’Reilly, a former National Security staff member whose emails place him in the middle of the unfolding scandal. Issa and Grassley had written to Ruemmler on March 28, asking the White House to step aside and let O’Reilly talk to investigators. …

During his time at the White House, records show, O’Reilly carried on an email conversation with Frank Newell, then the head of the Phoenix field office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). Their emails suggest that Newell was directly briefing O’Reilly on Fast and Furious.

In one email, Newell wrote to O’Reilly, “You didn’t get this from me,” indicating that he may have been subverting the established chain of command within the Department of Justice, which oversees ATF.

In another, Newell said, “Just don’t want ATF HQ to find out, especially since this is what they should be doing (briefing you!).”

Say, remember when this was going to be the most open and transparent administration in American history? Good times, good times. Presumably, the White House would have no problem arranging O’Reilly’s testimony if he had nothing important to say. The person on the other end of the e-mail conversation, Frank Newell, got a sudden case of amnesia about the import of these exchanges when he testified, and if that’s all O’Reilly has to add, it would be foolish for the White House to block access to him. Intervening in this manner looks very suspicious indeed, and the longer the White House fights over O’Reilly, the more it looks like O’Reilly might have something very, very interesting to add to the Fast & Furious investigation.


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