The left-leaning on-line news site, The Daily Beast, is reporting that Senators Patrick Leahy and Chuck Grassley have brokered a deal whereby ATF Acting Director Kenneth Melson will cooperate with Senate investigators and testify next month. In exchange, Senator Grassley released the hold he had put on three Department of Justice nominations.
The testimony—expected next month from Kenneth Melson, the acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives—was brokered as part of a deal between Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and the committee’s top Republican, Iowa’s Charles Grassley. Grassley and his fellow Republicans were given full access to ATF documents, Melson, and other key witnesses; and in return, Grassley agreed to release three Obama administration nominees he had been blocking, according to correspondence obtained by NEWSWEEK and THE DAILY BEAST.
Grassley had been fighting to get full access for months. He finally got it with a letter Leahy wrote to Attorney General Eric Holder requesting access for both his staff and Grassley’s investigators to the evidence and witnesses in the gun-sting investigation. In return, Grassley agreed to let proceed the nominations of Jim Cole to be deputy attorney general, Lisa Monaco to be assistant attorney general for national security, and Virginia Seitz to be head of the Office of Legal Counsel, the letter shows.
Melson has been resisting pressure to resign claiming that he had done no wrong in Project Gunwalker and that it had been approved in DOJ. Rep. Darrell Issa and others have flatly stated that the approval goes to the highest levels of the Justice Department.
As head of the agency that conducted the controversial sting, Melson has faced calls for his resignation. But in private conversations with congressional investigators in recent days, Melson has indicated he does not believe he did anything wrong because he carried out his bosses’ wishes and is eager to testify to describe the full picture, according to sources familiar with those conversations.
Issa, who is among those to previously call for Melson’s ouster, is hopeful the acting ATF director can answer crucial questions about what was known above him. “Director Melson has had a long and distinguished career at the Department of Justice. But in the eyes of the public he is, so far, the highest-ranking official who [knew] about gun walking,” Issa told THE DAILY BEAST over the weekend. “[But] I don’t believe he was the highest-ranking official at Justice who knew about or authorized this operation.
“He may still have an opportunity to set the record straight for his agency and get away from being the focus of demands for accountability. We certainly want to hear his full story and see all the evidence about what happened,” Issa said.
I’m surprised that Senator Leahy went along with the agreement. He has always been fiercely partisan and his cooperation will more than likely lead to more trouble for the Obama Administration. If Attorney General Eric Holder survives Project Gunwalker after Melson’s testimony, I’d be surprised.