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Arizona Prosecutor to Invoke 5th Amendment in Gun-Running Probe
Posted By Elizabeth Murphy On January 20, 2012 @ 12:09 pm In News | Comments Disabled
The federal prosecutor from Arizona who is under subpoena from the House Oversight Committee plans to invoke his 5th Amendment right rather than testify in the Fast and Furious gun-running probe.
The attorney for Patrick J. Cunningham, chief of the Criminal Division in the Arizona U.S. Attorney’s Office, wrote Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the committee chairman, that his client has been “ensnared by the unfortunate circumstances in which he now stands between two branches of government,” according to a Politico report .
According to a letter  sent by Issa on Thursday, Cunningham canceled a voluntary interview with the House committee, compelling him to issue the subpoena.
“During the course of our investigation, the Committee has learned of the outsized role played by the Arizona U.S. Attorney’s Office — and you specifically — in approving unacceptable tactics used in Fast and Furious,” Issa’s letter states. “Senior Justice Department Officials have recently told the Committee that you relayed inaccurate and misleading information to the Department in preparation for its initial response to Congress.”
Cunningham’s attorney, Tobin J. Romero of Williams & Connolly , wrote in response to Issa that his client has been miscast in the committee’s search for answers.
“Department of Justice Officials have reported to the Committee that my client relayed inaccurate information to the Department upon which it relied in preparing its initial response to Congress. If, as you claim, Department officials have blamed my client, they have blamed him unfairly,” Romero wrote.
“As a professional courtesy and to avoid needless preparation by the committee and its staff for a deposition next week, I am writing to advise you that my client is going to assert his constitutional privilege not to be compelled to be a witness against himself,” Romero wrote. “My client is, in fact, innocent, but he has been ensnared by the unfortunate circumstances in which he now stands between two branches of government. I will therefore be instructing him to assert his constitutional privilege.”
The controversial  gun-walking program, headed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, tracked about 2,000 guns purchased by straw buyers in the United States and intended for Mexico. The operation’s goal was to track the weapons’ movements in order to get proof of Mexican cartel involvement. But the operation backfired, with the ATF losing track of hundreds of weapons. Two AK-47s from the operation were recovered at the scene of a shootout between U.S. Border Patrol agents and Mexican bandits near Rio Rico, Ariz., in December 2010 in which Border Patrol Agent Brian A. Terry was killed.
Arizona U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke, whose office oversaw Fast and Furious, resigned  under pressure in August, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Emory Hurley was reassigned from the Criminal to the Civil Division in the aftermath of the debacle.
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