It's the subject of my latest column at Big Peace:
Gunwalker Scandal: Watergate with Murder?Original includes hyperlinks.
On April 3rd at 10:15am est, the House Judiciary committee was convening a hearing at which Attorney General Eric Holder would answer questions about the burgeoning scandal involving the ATF allowing weapons to ‘walk’ into Mexico. Two of those weapons were found at the murder scene of Border Patrol Agent, Brian Terry last December.
Also at 10:15am, reports that the White House would be releasing a photo of a dead Osama Bin Laden stole the headlines. The day ended without any photos being released. Meanwhile, GOP Rep. Darrell Issa grilled Holder and wanted to know who at the Department authorized the operation known as Fast and Furious, which involved the death of one of America’s finest. Yet, all the media seemed to have an appetite for was proof that the world’s most despicable was dead.
Holder: “…you have to understand the way in which the Department operates although there are operations, this one has gotten a great deal of publicity…”
Issa: “Yeah, there are dead Americans as a result of this failed and reckless program so I would say that it hasn’t gotten enough attention, has it Mr. Attorney General?”
It was the perfect allegory for the amount of attention and coverage given to the non-event that would be the release of a photo compared to that given to a story that involves government officials at an agency Eric Holder is responsible for – the ATF – having blood on their hands.
Here is another exchange at the hearing, this one between Holder and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT):
The phrase, “it’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up” was made infamous by Watergate. The same principle appears to be at work here.
In a February 4th letter to Senator Charles Grassley, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich assured Grassley that any charge that the ATF allowed guns to be sold to straw purchasers was “false.” Subsequent to that letter, Grassley came into the possession of emails between a gun store owner and ATF supervisor David Voth. In an April 13th letter to Eric Holder, Grassley included these emails as attachments. They clearly show that Voth instructed the store owner to sell weapons to straw purchasers on multiple occasions.
Also on April 13th, the Director of the ATF – Kenneth Melson – ignored the deadline of a subpoena issued to him fourteen days earlier by Issa, who demanded documents related to the operation.
On May 2nd, one day prior to the exchange between Issa and Holder, Assistant Attorney General Weich sent another letter to Grassley, in which he doubled down on his assertion by cleverly avoiding the matter of whether the ATF allowed weapons to be sold to straw purchasers and focused on whether the ATF allowed guns to ‘walk’ into the hands of Mexican drug cartels, saying that is “false.” Interviews by congressional investigators – directed by Grassley and Issa – of agents with first-hand knowledge of Fast and Furious also contradicted the claim made by Weich. This was reflected in a joint letter from Issa and Grassley to Holder on May 3rd.
The reasons given by Holder as to why requested and subpoenaed documents are not being presented to Issa is that the Justice Department is currently working cases related to Project Gunrunner. At the hearing, Issa dismissed those cases as being irrelevant to his investigation and made it clear he was not interested in the same suspects Holder’s Department was:
Issa: “We’re not looking at the straw purchasers, Mr. Attorney General. We’re looking at you.”
Like Watergate, this scandal is wrought with stonewalling and cover-ups. Unlike Watergate, it involves murder. For some reason, the media is more interested in looking at a photo of a dead Bin Laden than it is in pinning to the wall those responsible for the death of Brian Terry.