Sen. Grassley turns up the heat on Eric Holder
The storm may have gotten a little quiet since the House of Representatives voted to find Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress, but it may be getting loud again soon thanks to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The Hill reports that Sen. Grassley has sent a request to the Justice Department demanding more information on Operation Fast and Furious, the ATF gunwalking scheme that allowed firearms and munitions to cross the border with Mexico and into the hands of violent drug cartels:
On Tuesday, Grassley, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to Holder questioning who within the Justice Department knew of a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) memorandum reportedly circulated one day prior to the DOJ denying allegations of sanctioned “gunwalking” to lawmakers.
“I believe the Department should have been abundantly aware of allegations of gunwalking as there was more than one ATF agent providing information to Department components before the February 4, 2011, letter was sent to Congress,” he wrote.
Grassley alleges that his investigators contacted an ATF special agent on Feb. 2, 2011, who confirmed information provided by other ATF whistleblowers. The next day, that agent produced a memo documenting this discussion, which reportedly traveled through ATF’s chain of command.
“According to ATF personnel, the memorandum was discussed by high level ATF personnel and possibly forwarded to DOJ headquarters on February 3, 2011,” Grassley wrote. “Specifically, it has been alleged that individuals within the Deputy Attorney General’s (DAG’s) office and the Office of Legislative Affairs (OLA) at the Department were aware of or actually read the memorandum before the Department’s February 4, 2011, letter was sent.”
Grassley claims the possibility of the DOJ’s awareness of the memo prior to sending the Feb. 4, 2011, “erroneous letter” to Congress “raises more questions about DOJ’s claim that faulty information from Department components inadvertently led to the false letter.
“This was direct, documented information from street level agents in a far better position to know the facts than the senior supervisory personnel whom DOJ claims to have relied upon for information about the allegations,” he added.
Grassley also alleges that discovering how high up the DOJ chain of command the memo traveled has been difficult, as the department has not made available certain individuals and has potentially withheld relevant documents.
Some 200 people died as a result of Operation Fast and Furious, including Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and Customs Agent Jamie Zapata. Evidence came to light during congressional investigations on the matter that Holder was aware of the operation as far back as July 2010, contradicting what his testimony before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
While Holder is certainly in hot water, it’s unlikely that there is much that Republicans in Congress can do about him between now and the time when a new Congress convenes in January. However, Holder does serve as a constant talking point for Republicans to criticize President Barack Obama for his lack of transparency and oversight of his own administration.