In what can only be considered a preemptive strike in advance of Attorney General Eric Holder’s appearance before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) has released a report from the committee minority staff that blames Project Gunwalker entirely on the ATF Phoenix Field Division. It explicitly exonerates senior DOJ officials including Holder and Lanny Breuer.
From Cummings’ press release:
Cummings Issues Report Detailing Five Years of Gunwalking Operations in Arizona
Comprehensive Report Finds No Evidence that Senior Officials Approved Controversial Tactic
Washington, DC (Jan. 31, 2012)—Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, issued a 95-page minority staff report entitled “Fatally Flawed: Five Years of Gunwalking in Arizona.” The report describes the results of the Committee’s year-long investigation into the actions and circumstances that led to multiple gunwalking operations in Arizona from 2006 to 2010.
According to a letter Cummings sent to Committee Members accompanying the report, “this report tells the story of how misguided gunwalking operations originated in 2006 as ATF’s Phoenix Field Division devised a strategy to forgo prosecutions against low-level straw purchasers while they attempted to build bigger charges.”
The report finds that this strategy failed to include sufficient operational controls to stop these dangerous weapons from getting into the hands of violent criminals, creating a danger to public safety on both sides of the border. Rather than halting operations after flaws became evident, ATF’s Phoenix Field Division launched several similarly reckless operations over the course of several years, according to the report, also with tragic results.
Cummings’ letter noted that he instructed his staff “to focus on the facts we have discovered rather than the heated and sometimes inaccurate rhetoric that has characterized much of this investigation.”
“Contrary to repeated claims by some, the Committee has obtained no evidence that Operation Fast and Furious was a politically-motivated operation conceived and directed by high-level Obama Administration political appointees at the Department of Justice,” Cummings wrote in his letter. “The documents obtained and interviews conducted by the Committee indicate that it was the latest in a series of reckless and fatally flawed operations run by ATF’s Phoenix Field Division during both the previous and current administrations.”
The report sets forth ten constructive recommendations intended to address specific problems identified during the course of this investigation.
As might be expected from the rabid anti-gunners composing the Democrat side of the committee, many of their “constructive recommendations” are calls for more gun control. They include continuing and expanding the multiple semi-automatic rifle reporting requirement, repealing the Tiahrt Amendment, enactment of a “dedicated firearms trafficking law”, and more money for ATF.
The New York Times’ Charlie Savage has a long story on this effort by the Democrats on the House Oversight Committee to shield Holder and other DOJ officials. After three paragraphs trumpeting the Democrats’ conclusions and so-called exoneration of Holder, even the Times has to admit the timing is suspect.
Still, because the report was written by Democrats, the political impact of its conclusion exonerating high-level officials of wrongdoing may be limited. Its publication comes two days before Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. is to testify before the committee.
In the Times article, there is significant discussion of the letter sent by DOJ to Sen. Chuck Grassley on February 4, 2011 which falsely denied any gun-walking took place. It seems to cast the blame for the false claims on Patrick Cunningham, the former head of the U.S. Attorney for Arizona’s criminal section. Cunningham, you may recall, has elected not to answer questions from Committee investigators and has pled the Fifth.