Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) is demanding the Justice Department prove that former Attorney General Michael Mukasey knew of the department’s use of controversial gun-walking tactics in connection with an investigation initiated during the George W. Bush administration.
If Attorney General Eric Holder cannot provide documentation proving his assertions about Operation Wide Receiver, he should apologize, Grassley wrote in a letter.
“The Justice Department has produced nothing to date that indicates any former Attorney General was briefed on operation Wide-Receiver,” Grassley wrote. Mukasey served under Bush from 2007 to 2009 and was preceded by Alberto Gonzales.
After Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) called for the Attorney General to resign at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday, Holder defended himself, saying he put an end to the use of gun-walking tactics during his tenure.
“An Attorney General who I suppose you would hold in higher regard was briefed on these kinds of tactics in an operation called Wide Receiver and did nothing to stop them — nothing,” Holder said. “Three hundred guns, at least, walked in that instance.”
Grassley called this a “serious charge” and called for the Attorney General to respond by June 18.
In a 2006 operation known as Wide Receiver, officials in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and the Arizona U.S. Attorney’s office refrained from arresting gun straw-buyers in an attempt to nab higher-ups in dangerous Mexican drug cartels, indicates a report by the Democratic minority on the House Oversight Committee. Democrats on the Oversight Committee have asked Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) to bring Mukasey to testify before the committee as part of its ongoing gun-walking investigation.
In November 2011, however, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) called for the office of the Inspector General to investigate the use of gun-walking tactics in the Bush Administration.
“In connection with Operation Wide Receiver in 2006, hundreds of weapons apparently moved beyond the custody and control of the ATF and possibly into Mexican and Arizona,” Leahy said in a letter to then-acting Inspector General Cynthia Schnedar. ”Recent documents also show that [former] Attorney General Mukasey may have been briefed in 2007 on the ATF’s operations on the southern border, including an indication that guns may have entered Mexico out of the control of law enforcement offices.”
On Thursday, Holder offered the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee a number of documents relating to the more recent botched gun-walking investigation known as Operation Fast and Furious. Issa accused the Attorney General of stonewalling the committee’s efforts before scheduling a contempt of Congress vote for next Wednesday.
Fast and Furious, which was headed by ATF, aimed to track guns sold to straw-buyers in the United States and trace them to Mexican cartels. Butt he operation backfired and officials lost track of hundreds of guns. Two guns were found at the scene of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry’s death in December 2010. Terry died in a shootout between ATF agents and a group of Mexican bandits.