Attorney General Eric Holder “inadvertently” claimed 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, a Justice Department letter said.
Republicans in Congress today described the June 18 letter (scroll down) from acting Assistant Attorney General for legislative affairs Judith Appelbaum to Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) as a “retraction.”
“Now the department is retracting [the] statement and claiming Holder inadvertently made that claim to the [Senate Judiciary] Committee,” Issa said this morning.
“During a hearing last week, Attorney General Eric Holder claimed that his predecessor, then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey, had been briefed about gunwalking in Operation Wide Receiver,” Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) said in a statement today. “Now, the Department is retracting that statement and claiming Holder ‘inadvertently’ made that claim to the Committee.”
The Attorney General’s statement “concerned the case of Fidel Hernandez, not Wide Receiver as the Attorney General inadvertently stated at the hearing,” the letter from Appelbaum said.
The Hernandez case concerns an incident in September 2007 in which agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives monitored Hernandez, a suspected weapons trafficker, drive over the southern border with smuggled weapons, but failed to coordinate with Mexican counterparts to track the vehicle inside Mexico. Holder intended to refer to a briefing paper prepared for a meeting between then-Attorney General Mukasey and the Mexican Attorney General that described the incident, Appelbaum’s letter said,
The briefing paper further stated the “ATF would like to expand the possibility of such joint investigations and controlled deliveries.”
The Attorney General’s “inadvertent” remarks came at a Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearing last week.
“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 last week, referring to Mukasey. “Three hundred guns, at least, walked in that instance.”
On June 14, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) wrote a letter to the Attorney General demanding the Justice Department prove that Mukasey knew about the use of gun-walking tactics in connection with Operation Wide Receiver, a Bush-era initiative.
If he could not produce evidence confirming the statement he made, Grassley requested that he apologize.
Lawmakers in the House Oversight committee convened this morning to discuss contempt of Congress charges raised against Holder. Earlier in the morning President Barack Obama asserted executive privilege over a number of documents at the center of the contempt citation. The contempt vote is proceeding as scheduled.
Holder was brought before the Senate Judiciary Committee to answer questions about the botched gun-walking operation Fast and Furious. Fast and Furious was an operation orchestrated jointly by the ATF and Arizona U.S. Attorneys office allowing straw-buyers to purchase arms along the southwest border. Officials and agents tracked the guns hoping they would lead to higher-ups in dangerous Mexican drug cartels. The plan backfired and hundreds of guns were lost. Two guns were found at the scene of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry’s death. Terry died in a shootout between Mexican bandits and Border Patrol agents.
Operation Wide Receiver began in 2006. The ATF, alongside the Arizona U.S. Attorney’s office, refrained from arresting straw-buyers in an attempt to nab higher-ups in Mexican drug cartels.