Issa to Holder: You own Fast and Furious, champ

Rep. Darrell Issa responded this morning to Attorney General Eric Holder’s letter on Friday with a lengthy, detailed statement of his own.  In his letter, Issa accuses Holder of serially misrepresentations in the Department of Justice’s responses to his investigation, which later got exposed when the DoJ reluctantly began releasing documents demanded by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.  Issa called Holder’s Friday letter “a new low”:

From the beginning of the congressional investigation into Operation Fast and Furious, the Department of Justice has offered a roving set of ever-changing explanations to justify its involvement in this reckless and deadly program. These defenses have been aimed at undermining the investigation. From the start, the Department insisted that no wrongdoing had occurred and asked Senator Grassley and me to defer our oversight responsibilities over its concerns about our purported interference with its ongoing criminal investigations. Additionally, the Department steadfastly insisted that gunwalking did not occur.

Once documentary and testimonial evidence strongly contradicted these claims, the Department attempted to limit the fallout from Fast and Furious to the Phoenix Field Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). When that effort also proved unsuccessful, the Department next argued that Fast and Furious resided only within ATF itself, before eventually also assigning blame to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Arizona. All of these efforts were designed to circle the wagons around DOJ and its political appointees.

To that end, just last month, you claimed that Fast and Furious did not reach the upper levels of the Justice Department. Documents discovered through the course of the investigation, however, have proved each and every one of these claims advanced by the Department to be untrue. It appears your latest defense has reached a new low. Incredibly, in your letter from Friday you now claim that you were unaware of Fast and Furious because your staff failed to inform you of information contained in memos that were specifically addressed to you. At best, this indicates negligence and incompetence in your duties as Attorney General. At worst, it places your credibility into serious doubt.

Following the Committee’s issuance of a subpoena over six months ago, I strongly believed that the Department would fully cooperate with Congress and support this investigation with all the means at its disposal. The American people deserve no less. Unfortunately, the Department’s cooperation to date has been minimal. Hundreds of pages of documents that have been produced to my Committee are duplicative, and hundreds more contain substantial redactions, rendering them virtually worthless. The Department has actively engaged in retaliation against multiple whistleblowers, and has, on numerous occasions, attempted to disseminate false and misleading information to the press in an attempt to discredit this investigation.

Your letter dated October 7 is deeply disappointing. Instead of pledging all necessary resources to assist the congressional investigation in discovering the truth behind the fundamentally flawed Operation Fast and Furious, your letter instead did little but obfuscate, shift blame, berate, and attempt to change the topic away from the Department’s responsibility in the creation, implementation, and authorization of this reckless program. You claim that, after months of silence, you “must now address these issues” over Fast and Furious because of the harmful discourse of the past few days. Yet, the only major development of these past few days has been the release of multiple documents showing that you and your senior staff had been briefed, on numerous occasions, about Fast and Furious.

Issa’s closing demands accountability and responsibility from Holder:

Mr. Attorney General, you have made numerous statements about Fast and Furious that have eventually been proven to be untrue. Your lack of trustworthiness while speaking about Fast and Furious has called into question your overall credibility as Attorney General. The time for deflecting blame and obstructing our investigation is over. The time has come for you to come clean to the American public about what you knew about Fast and Furious, when you knew it, and who is going to be held accountable for failing to shut down a program that has already had deadly consequences, and will likely cause more casualties for years to come.

Operation Fast and Furious was the Department’s most significant gun trafficking case. It related to two of your major initiatives – destroying the Mexican cartels and reducing gun violence on both sides of the border. On your watch, it went spectacularly wrong. Whether you realize yet or not, you own Fast and Furious. It is your responsibility.

As the Boss Emeritus notes, this follows on the revelation this weekend by LA Times reporter Richard Serrano that dozens of the F&F weapons ended up in the hands of a notorious hit man for the Sinaloa cartel:

High-powered assault weapons illegally purchased under the ATF’s Fast and Furious program in Phoenix ended up in a home belonging to the purported top Sinaloa cartel enforcer in Ciudad Juarez,Mexico, whose organization was terrorizing that city with the worst violence in the Mexican drug wars.

In all, 100 assault weapons acquired under Fast and Furious were transported 350 miles from Phoenix to El Paso, making that West Texas city a central hub for gun traffickers. Forty of the weapons made it across the border and into the arsenal of Jose Antonio Torres Marrufo, a feared cartel leader in Ciudad Juarez, according to federal court records and trace documents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Mexican authorities seized the cache in April, but didn’t know at the time that the weapons came courtesy of the ATF and DoJ:

Torres Marrufo, also known as “the Jaguar,” has been identified by U.S. authorities as the enforcer for Sinaloa cartel chieftain Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman. The Fast and Furious weapons were found at one of Torres Marrufo’s homes April 30 when Mexican police inspected the property. It was unoccupied but “showed signs of recent activity,” they said.

The basement had been converted into a gym with a wall covered with built-in mirrors. Behind the mirrors they found a hidden room with the Fast and Furious weapons and dozens more, including an antiaircraft machine gun, a sniper rifle and a grenade launcher.

“We have seized the most important cache of weapons in the history of Ciudad Juarez,” Chihuahua state Gov. Cesar Duarte said at the time, though he did not know that many of the weapons came from the U.S. and Fast and Furious.

Isn’t it about time that someone take responsibility for this program — and to start telling the truth about its purpose and its deadly consequences?  As Attorney General, that should be Eric Holder, but he’s either been too dishonest to do it or so incompetent that he didn’t bother to read an entire series of memos detailing the issues from his own deputies.  It’s time to get a special prosecutor to determine which it is, perjury or incompetence, and it’s certainly long past time for this country to get a new Attorney General.