Geer Services, Inc.
San Marco Properties
Geer Services, Inc.
Geer Services, Inc.
Geer Services, Inc.
Underwoods
Claude Nolan
Charles Parish
Feb 282013
 

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Attorney General Eric Holder shrugged off the House’s move to hold him in contempt last year because he didn’t respect the votes by those who chose to do so.

In a wide-ranging, exclusive interview on Wednesday, ABC News’ Pierre Thomas asked Holder how he reacted when House Republicans voted with 17 Democrats to hold him in contempt of Congress last June over the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ “Fast and Furious” gun scandal.

“It’s something that I think was unfortunate,” Holder said.  “I think it’s a result of this kind of partisan sport that I think we engage in here in Washington far too often.”

Holder said the votes didn’t bother him, considering who cast them.

“But I have to tell you that for me to really be affected by what happened, I’d have to have respect for the people who voted in that way,” he told ABC News.  “And I didn’t, so it didn’t have that huge an impact on me.”

All but three House Republicans voted to hold Holder in contempt.  Two of them, Reps. Steven LaTourette, R-Ohio, and Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., have since left Congress — meaning Holder does (or did) not respect most of the current Republican House delegation.

Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va., voted against holding Holder in contempt, and House Speaker John Boehner didn’t vote, meaning Holder’s blanket statement does not apply to those two.

At issue was Holder’s compliance with a House subpoena to turn over documents related to the ATF’s Fast and Furious program to disseminate and track guns in Mexico.

House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., spearheaded the crusade against Holder and the Fast and Furious program, repeatedly accusing the attorney general of obscuring facts and refusing to comply with his investigation, and insinuating that top officials at the department, including Holder, likely knew about the program before terminating it.

The Justice Department maintained that it had consistently complied with Issa’s requests and that it had produced every kind of document typically handed over under such circumstances.

Holder took another jab at Republicans when asked about the current partisan stalemate over deficit reduction and the looming automatic budget cuts, which Holder says will interfere with vital law-enforcement missions and endanger U.S. security.

When asked about how much of the blame Obama’s administration deserves, Holder said he wasn’t sure “it’s an awful lot.”

“I mean, I think this president came into office with the notion that he wanted to change how Washington does business.  I think this president has extended his hand on any number of occasions,” he said.

“And I think we’ve seen too often the opposition not being what I would call a responsible opposition party, but a part that simply is opposed to anything the president has wanted to do,” Holder said.  “And I think that has led to partisan gridlock that the American people are not satisfied with and that frankly does not serve the interests of this nation.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Sep 212012
 

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Asked about the Fast and Furious program at a forum on Thursday, President Obama falsely claimed that the program began under President George W. Bush.

“I think it’s important for us to understand that the Fast and Furious program was a field-initiated program begun under the previous administration,” the president said. “When Eric Holder found out about it, he discontinued it. We assigned an inspector general to do a thorough report that was just issued, confirming that in fact Eric Holder did not know about this, that he took prompt action and the people who did initiate this were held accountable.”

In actuality, the Fast and Furious program was started in October 2009, nine months into the Obama presidency.

Previous programs involving ATF agents allowing guns to “walk” across the border so as to trace them were run during the Bush presidency, but not this particular “field-initiated program.”

The Inspector General determined Attorney General Eric Holder was immediately notified that Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was shot and killed in the line of duty, but he was not told about the connection between the firearms found at the scene of the shooting and Operation Fast and Furious.

ABC News learned that Holder was not made aware of that fact until sometime in 2011, after he received a letter from Senator Charles Grassley on January 27, even though Senior Justice Department officials knew about the troubling information more than a month before.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Sep 192012
 

Chris Graythen/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — “Operation Fast and Furious,” the controversial undercover operation that allowed U.S. guns to be walked into Mexico, was a “risky strategy” that did not “adequately take into account the significant danger to public safety that it created.”

That was the conclusion Wednesday from the Office of the Inspector General, Department of Justice, after an investigation that spanned more than a year and a half.

The OIG investigation found that Attorney General Eric Holder was not aware of the strategy and tactics used in “Fast and Furious,” and turned up no evidence that Holder tried to cover up the operation, or mislead Congress about it. Holder was held in contempt of Congress earlier this year for allegedly withholding documents about DOJ’s “Fast and Furious” investigation from congressional investigators.

In a statement Wednesday, Holder said, “It is unfortunate that some were so quick to make baseless accusations before they possessed the facts about these operations — accusations that turned out to be without foundation and that have caused a great deal of unnecessary harm and confusion.”

The IG report did find that a misleading letter that the DOJ sent to Congress was “troubling” because senior officials who were involved in drafting it knew, or should have known, that reckless behavior had occurred.

The political combat triggered by the flawed undercover operation played out in a series of contentious hearings on Capitol Hill in the past year. Behind the battles, the OIG found, was an undercover operation to catch gun-runners on the Southwest border that quickly turned bad.

Some of the 2,000 guns that made their way into Mexico as a result of “Operation Fast and Furious” were later recovered at crime scenes, including two found at the scene of the killing of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in December 2010.

The “Fast and Furious” strategy called for agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to conduct surveillance and review phone and financial records to track guns they believed to be going to Mexican drug lords, who could then be arrested. But ATF lost track of most of the guns, few arrests were made, and yet “the purchasing activity by Operation Fast and Furious subjects continued unabated, individuals who had engaged in serious and dangerous criminal conduct remained at large, and the public was put in harm’s way.”

The OIG investigation “revealed a series of misguided strategies, tactics, errors in judgment and management failures that permeated ATF Headquarters and the Phoenix Field Division, as well as the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona and at the Headquarters of the Department of Justice.”

The report also details serious mistakes in DOJ’s response to congressional inquiries about “Fast and Furious.”

The Inspector General’s review has recommended 14 Justice Department and ATF officials for disciplinary and administrative review, including the head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer.

As a result of the OIG findings, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein resigned his post Wednesday. The OIG report charged that Weinstein, a senior aide to Breuer, did not adequately share critical information about “Fast and Furious,” and its predecessor operation, “Wide Receiver,” with top DOJ officials.

Because that information did not reach the attorney general, more aggressive oversight of the operation did not occur, and misinformation was passed on to Congress, according to the OIG report. Weinstein and his attorney vigorously denied any wrongdoing, saying Weinstein did not receive the key information he needed from the agents carrying out the operation. The former acting director of ATF during the operation, Kenneth Melson, on Wednesday retired from the Department of Justice, effective immediately.

The report was highly critical of William Newell, the former special agent in charge of the Phoenix field office. “Newell also bore ultimate responsibility for the failures in Operation Fast and Furious,” the review found, citing his leadership position and involvement in the case.

Newell is working at ATF Headquarters in Washington.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, one of the leading congressional critics of DOJ’s handing of “Fast and Furious,” issued a statement Wednesday, saying, “Operation Fast and Furious was the height of irresponsibility on the part of a number of people from the ATF Phoenix field office all the way up to the Justice Department headquarters. And, we still don’t know the full extent of any White House involvement because they refused to be transparent and provide documents requested by the Inspector General. It’s clear that both the ATF and the Justice Department failed to provide meaningful oversight of Operation Fast and Furious.”

The OIG report also detailed the mistakes that lead to the killing of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry: “On January 16, 2010, one of the straw purchasers purchased three AK-47 style rifles from a Phoenix-area gun store. ATF agents learned about that purchase 3 days later and, consistent with the investigative strategy in the case, made no effort to locate (the purchaser) or seize the rifles although ATF had identified the suspect in November 2009. Two of the three rifles purchased by (the suspect) on January 16 were recovered 11 months later at the scene of the murder of Agent Terry, who was shot and killed on December 14, 2010, as he tried to arrest persons believed to be illegally entering the United States … “

The day after Agent Terry’s death, ATF agents arrested that suspect, Jaime Avila, and later 20 more alleged gun buyers and traffickers. As of Sept. 1, 2012, 14 defendants, including Avila, had entered guilty pleas to one or more counts of the indictment. In all, “Fast and Furious” identified more than 40 subjects believed to be connected to a trafficking conspiracy responsible for purchasing more than 2,000 firearms for about $1.5 million in cash. The vast majority of the firearms purchased by “Operation Fast and Furious” subjects were AK-47 style rifles and FN Herstal 5.7 caliber pistols.

The OIG report also noted, “What began as an important and promising investigation of serious firearms trafficking along the Southwest Border that was developed through the efforts of a short-staffed ATF enforcement group quickly grew into an investigation that lacked realistic objectives, did not have appropriate supervision within ATF or the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and failed to adequately assess the public safety consequences of not stopping or controlling the alarming purchasing activity.”

The report indicates that the OIG reviewed more than 100,000 documents and interviewed more than 130 witnesses, many on multiple occasions.

Inspector General Michael Horowitz said, “We operated with complete and total independence in our search for the truth, and the decision about what to cover in this report and the conclusions that we reached were made solely by me and my office.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Aug 022012
 

Ryan Kelly/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The former Deputy Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has left the agency in the wake of the fallout from the Fast and Furious gun walking scandal. William Hoover was no longer employed at the agency as of Aug. 1, 2012, according to an ATF spokesman. Officials declined to comment further citing the Privacy Act.
 
Hoover had served as the Deputy Director of the Bureau since February 2007 and was in that position during the Fast and Furious gun running scandal. Prior to being the number two at the ATF, Hoover had served as the Assistant Director for Field Operations. He joined the ATF in 1987 after having worked in Virginia at several law enforcement agencies. He had also served as special agent in charge of Boston and Washington Field Offices before going to the ATF Headquarters.
 
Under Fast and Furious ATF, agents recorded and tracked straw purchases of weapons which were allowed to walked across the U.S. border into Mexico and into the hands of cartel members. The ATF operation took a tragic toll when two guns linked to the operation were found near slain U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry on Dec. 14, 2010.
 
Hoover had been briefed on Fast and Furious by ATF Agent William Newell who had been the special agent in charge overseeing the case. In March 2010 Hoover became concerned about the number of guns involved in the case and ordered ATF agents in Phoenix to wrap the case up in 90 days.
 
Hoover was among five ATF officials recently named in a Congressional report responsible for the botched gun running operation. The report, released earlier this week and prepared by Rep. Darrell Issa, Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, noted of Hoover and ATF Assistant Director Mark Chait, “Assistant Director Mark Chait and his superior, Deputy Director Hoover, had several opportunities to put an end to the operation but failed to do so. Hoover knew that Newell had employed risky tactics in the past as SAC yet failed to monitor him closely. Either Hoover did not ask the right questions or simply turned a blind eye to the unavoidable reality that reckless gunwalking tactics were being used again in Fast and Furious.”
 
Although Hoover had ordered his agents to wrap up the investigation within 90 days in March 2010 indictments were not returned by federal grand juries until January 2011.
 
Hoover was reassigned to a subordinate position last October when the newly appointed Acting Director of the ATF Todd Jones shook-up senior staff positions.
 
Last August Dennis Burke, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona where operation Fast and Furious was overseen resigned from the Justice Department. The assistant U.S. attorney who helped run the program, Emory Hurley, has also been reassigned from working on criminal cases and is currently assigned to the civil division at the Arizona U.S. attorney’s office. William Newell was reassigned to ATF Headquarters from overseeing the Phoenix Field Office.
 
The Justice Department’s Inspector General report into Fast and Furious is expected to be released in the next several weeks.

Issa’s investigation into the unfolding scandal led to contempt of Congress charges against Attorney General Eric Holder, who was accused of shepherding the Fast and Furious — and hiding documents about it. Prior to the contempt vote in June, President Obama asserted executive privilege to “freeze” some of the documents Holder refused to provide to Issa’s House probe.
 
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Aug 012012
 

David De Lossy/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The White House and Senate must improve the leadership of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, according to a draft report that was critical of the government’s botched “Operation Fast and Furious” that resulted in hundreds of guns falling into criminal hands.

The report, prepared by California Republican Congressman Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley, cited five one-time ATF officials in particular for instituting the gun-tracking operation and then failing to stop it after things went wrong.

Those named were former Special Agent in Charge of the Phoenix Field Division William Newell, former Deputy Assistant Director for Field Operations William McMahon, former Assistant Director for Field Operations Mark Chait, the former Deputy Director William Hoover, and former acting ATF director Kenneth Melson.

The ATF first allowed up to 2,000 firearms to cross the border into Mexico in order to find violent criminals involved in gun trafficking and drug cartels.  However, many of those weapons were misplaced and two turned up at the murder scene of a U.S. Border Patrol agent in Arizona.

The Justice Department initially denied knowledge of Operation Fast and Furious and then admitted it was aware of the program.  Attorney General Eric Holder appeared before numerous congressional committees to testify about what he knew and is currently being held in contempt by the House for not turning over documents requested by Issa.

Two other reports from congressional Republicans are due that will allege further missteps by the Justice Department’s criminal division and the office of the attorney general.  Holder and members of the Obama administration have called the probes a “witch-hunt.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio