The credibility of Attorney General Eric Holder took a significant blow on June 20, even while the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in a 23-17 vote moved to hold him in contempt over his handling of the so-called Fast and Furious gun sale scandal. In a second major retraction over the Justice Department's version of events in the gun-walking scandal, the Justice Department retracted Holder's claim made in a hearing last week that his Bush administration predecessor had been briefed on the affair.
In a memo released by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R), the Iowa senator noted that Holder also failed to apologize to former Attorney General Michael Mukasey besmirching him with the Fast & Furious scandal that is headed for a major legal clash for the Obama administration. According to Grassley's memo, the Justice Department claims that veteran attorney and Obama confidant Holder "inadvertently" made the charge against Mukasey in a hearing before Congress.
Here is the full text of the Grassley memo:
To: Reporters and Editors
Re: Second retraction of Fast and Furious Assertions
Da: Wednesday, June 20, 2012
The Justice Department has retracted a second statement made to the Senate Judiciary Committee. 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. Now, the Department is retracting that statement and claiming Holder "inadvertently" made that claim to the Committee. The Department's letter failed to apologize to former Attorney General Mukasey for the false accusation. This is the second major retraction the Justice Department has made in the last seven months. In December 2011, the Department retracted its claim that the ATF had not allowed illegally purchased guns to be trafficked to Mexico. Sen. Chuck Grassley's letter and the Department's response can be viewed here-1.
In addition, the Justice Department released only one page of additional material prior to the Attorney General's meeting on Capitol Hill on Tuesday. It is a page of handwritten notes by a public affairs specialist for the Deputy Attorney General, which the Department says it "just recently discovered." The notes indicate that when Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein met with senior ATF officials on April 28, 2010, regarding the problem of gunwalking in Wide Receiver, the Deputy Attorney General's public affairs specialist also attended the meeting. These notes can be viewed here-2.
The notes indicate that Fast and Furious was also a topic discussed at the meeting, in addition to Wide Receiver. These notes further corroborate contemporaneous emails in 2010 that show Criminal Division Chief Lanny Breuer and Weinstein seemed to have been more concerned about the press implications of gunwalking than they were about making sure ATF ended the practice. (These emails can be viewed here-3.) The notes also undermine the claim that senior DOJ officials failed to "make the connection" between the gunwalking in Wide Receiver--which Breuer admitted to knowing about--and gunwalking in Fast and Furious. In fact, both cases were discussed by senior Department leadership and senior ATF leadership.
In a statement, Senator Grassly made the following comment:
"This is the second time in nearly seven months that the Department has gotten its facts wrong about gunwalking. Attorney General Holder accused Attorney General Mukasey, without producing any evidence, of having been briefed on gunwalking in Wide Receiver. The case Attorney General Mukasey was briefed on, Hernandez, is fundamentally different from both Wide Receiver and Fast and Furious since it involved cooperation with the Mexican government. Attorney General Holder's retraction should have included an apology to the former Attorney General.
"In his eagerness to blame the previous administration, Attorney General Holder got his facts wrong. And his tactic didn't bring us any closer to understanding how a bad policy evolved and continued. Bad policy is bad policy, regardless of how many administrations carried it out. Ironically, the only document produced yesterday by the Department appears to show that senior officials in the Attorney General's own Department were strategizing about how to keep gunwalking in both Wide Receiver and Fast and Furious under wraps."