The principal critic of a controversial gun-trafficking operation may have been briefed on the program in a private briefing last year and didn’t express any opposition, the Washington Post reported yesterday.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has led a veritable campaign against Justice Department and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives officials for authorizing operation “Fast and Furious,” which allegedly allowed thousands of firearms to be trafficked into Mexico.
But sources told the Post that he and members of his staff were given specific information about it in April 2010 in a briefing Issa and two other Republican congressman had requested.
Fredrick Hill, a spokesman for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chaired by Issa, didn’t give details on what the congressman knew or when.
He said Republican staff had no recollection of being told “gunwalking” had occurred in the operation, and he pointed to a Democratic staff member, currently working for now-ranking Democratic member Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), who also attended the meeting and never indicated any prior awareness.
The Wall Street Journal reported last week that an email sent in April 2010 from an ATF agent in Mexico City to a bureau official discussed plans to brief Issa’s committee in a classified meeting about several programs, including Fast and Furious. In the article, a spokesman for Issa said the chairman wasn’t briefed on specifics of the operation and that staffers at the meeting don’t recall the operation being mentioned.
“Opponents of this investigation are incredulously trying to assert that Obama Administration political appointees at the Justice Department were ignorant – yet Congress was in the know on the details,” Hill said in a statement. “This irresponsible and false accusation is indicative of a Justice Department bereft of leadership and rattled by the revelations of its own misconduct.”
Democratic committee spokeswoman Ashley Etienne declined to comment Wednesday morning on the contents of the April 2010 briefing, but she did say that Hill had confirmed that Issa was briefed.