Oversight chair lauds Breuer's departure

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) on Thursday applauded the news that Lanny Breuer is planning to step down from his position as head of the Justice Department’s criminal division.

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Issa, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and several of his Republican colleagues have called repeatedly for Breuer’s resignation for his role in the failed Operation Fast and Furious, which lost track of weapons sold to suspected criminals in the Southwest.

“Lanny Breuer’s resignation is long overdue,” Issa said in a statement. “Breuer was at the heart of several critical failures in Operation Fast and Furious. He knew about reckless tactics, failed to take seriously allegations that they were continuing, and only owned up to his failures once they were publicly exposed.”

At the request of Attorney General Eric Holder, the Justice Department's inspector general completed a lengthy report on the botched operation. A weapon from the operation was found at the murder scene of a Border Patrol agent.

The IG’s report found that four top Justice Department officials —Breuer, Holder’s former Deputy Chief of Staff Monty Wilkinson, former Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein and former acting Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler — should have raised concerns sooner with their superiors about flaws within Fast and Furious.

Breuer “did not authorize any of the investigative activities” in Fast and Furious, according to the report. But he 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 stated. And yet, upon learning of Fast and Furious, the officials did not take appropriate action.

“Given the significance of this issue and the fact that [the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives] ... 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,” the report states.

Issa heralded Breuer’s imminent departure as paving the way for new leadership in the department's criminal division, saying that “had Breuer taken any action whatsoever, Fast and Furious would have ended eight months sooner than it did.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has also called repeatedly for Breuer's removal. Grassley initiated Congress’s inquiries into Fast and Furious in 2011 after a whistleblower with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which oversaw the operation, came to him with concerns about it.

The news of Breuer's impending resignation comes in the wake of a PBS "Frontline" investigation that aired this week criticizing him for not prosecuting Wall Street powerbrokers for their role in the financial crisis.