By Jordy Yager - 09/20/12 03:53 AM EDT
Republicans are calling for more heads to roll in the wake of a lengthy inspector general report on the botched “Fast and Furious” operation that culminated in the immediate resignations of two top officials.
Lanny Breuer, the assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s (DOJ) criminal division, is at the top of the GOP’s list of officials they are pressing to step down or be fired.
“He failed to connect ‘dots’ on gun walking that a summer law clerk intern could have seen. By either errors of omission or commission, two demonstrably false letters were sent from the DOJ to committees of congress. Out of respect for the department and what the concept of Justice means, he needs to resign."
The IG’s report found that four top DOJ officials — Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, Holder’s former Deputy Chief of Staff Monty Wilkinson, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein and former acting Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler — should have raised concerns with their superiors about Fast and Furious because they knew that prior operations, similar in nature, used “gun walking” tactics. And yet, upon learning of Fast and Furious, they did not, the report states.
Breuer “did not authorize any of the investigative activities” in Fast and Furious, according to the report. But Breuer was aware that a previous operation under President George W. Bush’s administration, Wide Receiver, had used similar “gun walking” tactics, which he described as “obviously flawed,” the report states.
“Given the significance of this issue and the fact that ATF reports to the deputy attorney general, we believe that Breuer should have promptly informed the deputy attorney general or the attorney general about the matter in April, 2010. Breuer failed to do so.”
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has also called on Breuer to be removed. As the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Grassley initiated Congress’ inquiries into “Fast and Furious” early last year. After calling for Breuer’s resignation 10 months ago, Grassley is maintaining that he should step aside in the wake of the IG’s report, his office told The Hill.
“I’m not somebody who flippantly calls for resignations,” said Grassley, on the Senate floor in December. “I’ve done oversight for many years, and in all that time I don’t ever remember coming across a government official who so blatantly placed sparing agencies embarrassment over protecting the lives of citizens.
“He has failed to do his job of insuring that the government operate [properly], including holding people accountable. Because of that Mr. Breuer needs to go immediately.”
The long awaited report by the IG, which Attorney General Eric Holder requested, found that Holder didn’t know about the controversial “gun walking” tactics used in the operation. But some Republicans charge that it was the responsibility of the nation’s top law enforcement official to know the details of the operation, which was one of more than 100 being coordinated under the department. Earlier this year they held Holder in contempt of Congress for not responding to a congressional subpoena.
Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) has led the charge against Holder, sponsoring a resolution with 114 Republican supporters that expresses a lack of confidence in the House of Holder’s ability to do his job in the wake of “Fast and Furious.” Gosar is actively pushing for a vote on the measure.
“The Congressman's position is that the housekeeping that needs to be done to restore confidence in the DOJ should start immediately with Obama asking for Holders resignation,” said Apryl Marie Fogel, a spokeswoman for Gosar, in a statement to The Hill.
“This report shows that the best defense Attorney General has was that he was asleep at the wheel, not reading his briefing materials and not calling for accountability within his department. Everyone involved should have their positions and roles reevaluated but it all starts at the top with Holder being the first to go.”
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the chairman the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that has been investigating “Fast and Furious” for the past 18 months, has not called for Holder to step down. But in previous comments to The Hill, Issa has indicated that his investigative findings implicate Breuer and he argues that Holder should have known of the tactics used in Fast and Furious.
“There’s no question there needs to be real reform at Justice,” said Issa on Fox News’ Special Report with Bret Baier on Wednesday. “Eric Holder didn’t do his job.”
The Justice Department announced shortly after the report’s release on Wednesday that former acting director of the ATF Kenneth Melson and Weinstein had both resigned. Before his retirement, Melson headed the ATF while Fast and Furious was ongoing and was reassigned to a lower-level position.
Many of the other key players in the Fast and Furious case, both in the U.S. Attorney’s office in Arizona and the ATF, have either resigned or been reassigned.
Issa is holding a hearing on the IG's report Thursday morning.