DOJ: Issa’s ‘Recycled’ Charges That Holder Lied About ATF’s Fast And Furious Are ‘Baseless’

October 10, 2011 11:19 a.m.

The back-and-forth between House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa and Attorney General Eric Holder over Holder’s knowledge of ATF’s controversial Fast and Furious program continued Monday, with a Justice Department spokeswoman accusing Issa of “partisan showboating.”

“These recycled allegations continue to be baseless, no matter how many times they are repeated,” DOJ spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler told TPM in an email.

“From the start, the Attorney General took the concerns about certain tactics used in the Fast and Furious operation seriously, which is why the first steps he took were to ask the Inspector General to investigate the matter and to ensure agents and prosecutors knew such conduct violated Department of Justice policy and would not be tolerated,” Schmaler said.“The Department will continue to cooperate with both the Inspector General and congressional investigations, In the meantime, what the American people deserve is less partisan showboating and more responsible solutions to stopping gun violence on the Southwest Border.”

One key tidbit from Issa’s letter to Holder:

Gary Grindler, the then-Deputy Attorney General and currently your Chief of Staff, received an extremely detailed briefing on Operation Fast and Furious on March 12, 2010. In this briefing, Grindler learned such minutiae as the number of times that Uriel Patino, a straw purchaser on food stamps who ultimately acquired 720 firearms, went in to a cooperating gun store and the amount of guns that he had bought. When former Acting ATF Director Ken Melson, a career federal prosecutor, learned similar information, he became sick to his stomach:

“I had pulled out all Patino’s — and ROIs is, I’m sorry, report of investigation — and you know, my stomach being in knots reading the number of times he went in and the amount of guns that he bought.”

There’s a noteworthy omission and some slight-of-hand going on here: it was actually Melson himself who gave Grindler the 2010 briefing. The “sick to my stomach” line? That came after Melson, in the words of Issa and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), “learned the full story” — nearly a year later, when the controversy became public. Here’s a description, from a previous letter that Issa and Grassley sent to Holder:

According to Mr. Melson, it was not until after the public controversy that he personally reviewed hundreds of documents relating to the case, including wiretap applications and Reports of Investigation (ROIs). By his account, he was sick to his stomach when he obtained those documents and learned the full story. Mr. Melson said that he told the Office of the Deputy Attorney General (ODAG) at the end of March that the Department needed to reexamine how it was responding to the requests for information from Congress.

Late update: Here’s the agenda for the March 2010 meeting from a document that DOJ recently sent up to the House Oversight Committee:

The TPM Journalism Fund: A New Way To Support TPM
We're launching the TPM Journalism Fund as an additional way for readers and members to support TPM. Every dollar contributed goes toward:
  • -Hiring More Journalists
  • -Providing free memberships to those who cannot afford them
  • -Supporting independent, non-corporate journalism
Are you experiencing financial hardship?
Apply for a free community-supported membership
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Senior Editor:
Special Projects Editor:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front-End Developer:
Senior Designer: