Emails show feds shrugged off ‘Fast and Furious’ fears

Emails show feds shrugged off ‘Fast and Furious’ fears

Obama administration emails released by House Republicans on Thursday show that some officials within the Justice Department appeared to ignore congressional concerns about the “Fast and Furious” operation, weeks after a weapon from the program was found at the site of a gunfight that killed a Border Patrol agent. 

In one email from February 2011, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein said the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) “can and should strongly refute” claims that the administration knowingly allowed “gun walking” from the U.S. to Mexico.


A probe from Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyColorado governor, spouse test positive for COVID-19 McConnell halts in-person Republican lunches amid COVID-19 surge Rep. Rick Allen tests positive for COVID-19 MORE (R-Iowa) was “based on categorical falsehoods,” added U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke in the same email chain.

“I worry that ATF will take 8 months to answer this when they should be refuting its underlying accusations right now," the email reads.

Guns found at the scene of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry’s December 2010 death were eventually traced to the program, which ran from 2009 to 2011 and was intended to trace guns as they made their way into the hands of Mexican drug cartels. Burke resigned from office in August 2011, on the heels of growing criticism about the “Fast and Furious” operation. 

The 36 pages of emails were released by the House Oversight Committee on Thursday, a week after the Justice Department complied with a federal judge’s order to give documents to the panel.

In all, the Obama administration handed the House committee more than 20,500 pages of documents, which it had originally claimed were subject to executive privilege and thus not eligible for congressional review. 

In other messages, Justice Department officials claim that the allegations are “part of the overall effort to discredit the ATF,” in conjunction with the National Rifle Association.

Releasing documents in response to congressional subpoenas would set a “precedent” and be “a very bad idea,” wrote Stephen Kelly, the assistant director of the FBI’s office of congressional affairs.

“More than previously understood, the documents show the lengths to which senior department officials went to keep information from Congress,” Oversight Committee Chairman Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzThe myth of the conservative bestseller Elijah Cummings, Democratic chairman and powerful Trump critic, dies at 68 House Oversight panel demands DeVos turn over personal email records MORE (R-Utah) wrote in a memo to fellow committee Republicans on Thursday.  

Committee staffers have only analyzed “a small subset” of the thousands of documents handed over by the Justice Department.   

“Committee staff are working vigorously to review the entire set of documents that the Justice Department turned over to piece together how and why senior political officials in Washington obstructed the congressional investigation of Fast and Furious,” Chaffetz wrote.

After receiving the load of documents last week, the House committee filed an appeal of additional portions of the federal judge’s ruling, which allowed the Obama administration to keep additional documents secret.