Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has fired another salvo at Attorney General Eric Holder and the Justice Department over Operation Fast and Furious (aka Project Gunwalker). In his latest letter, Grassley releases e-mails sent by an unnamed FFL in Arizona to ATF Group VII Supervisor David Voth along with Voth’s replies. They show that at least one cooperating gun dealer was quite concerned that these straw purchases would end up in Mexico.
Sharyl Attkisson of CBS News reports that Rep. Darrell Issa and Sen. Grassley are sharing information received from the Justice Department. However, as she notes, the response by DOJ hasn’t been very forthcoming.
So far, Grassley and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who is also investigating the gunwalking scandal, say they have received little to no meaningful response to their document and information requests from ATF and the Department of Justice. Earlier this week when the Justice Department turned over selected materials to Rep. Issa’s staff, sources say Grassley’s staff were now allowed entry or access to the same materials.
Grassley notes in his letter that the Justice Department has not provided his office or staff with even one page of the requested documents. He goes on to say that he hasn’t requested that Sen. Pat Leahy, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, issue a supoena or document request because “any such request would be unnecessary and duplicative of the process on the House side.”
The previous responses by the Justice Department from Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich brought this from Sen. Grassley.
The Department’s failure to cooperate with my requests is especially troubling in light of the February 4, 2011, reply to my initial letter. In that reply, the Justice Department took the position that those allegations were “false” and specifically denied “that ATF ‘sanctioned’ or otherwise knowingly allowed the sale of assault weapons” to straw purchasers. The letter further claimed that “ATF makes every effort to interdict weapons that have been purchased illegally and prevent their transportation to Mexico.”
I already provided evidence contradicting that denial in my February 9 and March 3 letters. In addition, attached you will find further documentation undermining the Department’s assertion. Specifically, the documents are emails between ATF officials and a Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL) in Arizona. These emails demonstrate that ATF instructed gun dealers to engage in suspicious sales despite the dealers’ concerns. The emails refer to meetings between the FFL and the U.S. Attorney’s office to address the concerns being raised by the FFL.
Grassley goes on to say that the Justice Department’s claim that they didn’t authorize or allow the sale of firearms to straw buyers is simply not believable. He then goes on to put Holder on the spot by asking the two following questions. He requests a response by April 20th.
1. Do you stand by the assertion in the Department’s reply that the ATF whistleblower allegations are “false” and specifically that ATF did not sanction or otherwise knowingly allow the sale of assault weapons to straw purchasers? If so, please explain why in light of the mounting evidence to the contrary.
2. Will you commit to providing the Senate Judiciary Committee with documents, or access to documents, simultaneously with the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform? If not, please explain why not.
CBS News has video of Grassley discussing his letter and the email on the floor of the Senate.
The emails that have been released definitely show that the FFL was concerned about where these firearms went. He had friends who were U.S. Border Patrol agents and didn’t want them to be harmed by his cooperation with ATF. Beyond just the emails, Grassley’s staff has also interviewed the FFL. They are definitely worth reading to see how the dealers were “played” by ATF in the course of their so-called investigation.