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Public Statements

Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. GRASSLEY. Madam President, for over a year now I have been investigating Fast and Furious. That is an operation coming out of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.

This has been a very complicated investigation. It has been made even more difficult because of the Justice Department's lack of candor and transparency. Basically, the Justice Department is stonewalling, interfering with Congress's constitutional responsibility of oversight.

For example, the Justice Department's Office of Inspector General recently disclosed that it has received 80,000 pages of documents from the Department and over 100,000 e-mails.

Think of what the Inspector General gets from the Department: 80,000 pages and 100,000 e-mails. How much do you think they have given the Congress of the United States, which has the constitutional responsibility of oversight? It is only 6,000 pages that we have received.

Similarly, the inspector general has been allowed to conduct 70 witness interviews. How many has the Justice Department allowed the Congress, in our responsibility of oversight, to interview? Only 9 witnesses.

Last week, Attorney General Eric Holder testified before the House Committee On Oversight and Government Reform. The Justice Department did a document dump to Congress the Friday night before the hearing. That has become a very bad habit of the Department of Justice. In fact, without giving us any advance notice that it was coming, they actually put a CD under the door of our office, after business hours. What did they do for the press? They gave the same documents to the press 2 hours before they ever gave them to us. Yes, they managed to find time to leak the documents to the press during regular business hours. This is the kind of cooperation we get from the Justice Department in our constitutional responsibility of oversight.

What I am telling my colleagues here is that we have a terrible lack of cooperation from the Justice Department. The Justice Department is not only thumbing its nose at the Senate, they are doing it to the entire Congress of the United States, when we know there are 80,000 pages of documents and they only give us 6,000 pages; when there are 100,000 e-mails and we get a handful of e-mails.

Why would they be so mysterious by putting a disk under our door on a Friday night and giving it to the press 2 hours before? What sort of attitude is that of our Justice Department toward the cooperation you ought to have with our filling our constitutional role of oversight? So I guess I would say there is hardly any cooperation whatsoever from the Justice Department.

Even though we get a dribble here and a dribble there, even though we get a CD under the door, instead of very openly face to face receiving documents, what we got last Friday did reveal further facts about a previously unknown proposal to allow these guns to cross the border.

We have long known that in March of 2011, Deputy Attorney General James Cole had a conference call with all Southwest border U.S. agents. In a follow-up e-mail after the call, Mr. Cole wrote:

As I said on the call, to avoid any potential confusion, I want to reiterate the Department's policy: We should not design or conduct undercover operations which include guns crossing the border. If we have knowledge that guns are about to cross the border, we must take immediate action to stop the firearms from crossing the border, even if that prematurely terminates or otherwise jeopardizes an investigation.

Attorney General Holder himself told us in a hearing in May that Mr. Cole was simply reiterating an existing Justice policy in his e-mails, not communicating new policy. So imagine my surprise when I discovered in the document slid under my door late last Friday that while in Mexico Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer proposed letting guns cross the border. Mr. Breuer's proposal came at exactly the same time the Department was preparing to send its letter to me denying that the ATF ever does the very thing he was proposing.

In a February 4, 2011 e-mail, the Justice Department attache in Mexico City wrote to a number of officials at the Justice Department:

AAG Breuer proposed allowing straw purchasers to cross into Mexico so [the Secretariat of Public Safety] can attest and [the Attorney General of Mexico] can prosecute and convict. Such coordinated operations between the US and Mexico may send a strong message to arms traffickers.

We have people here in Washington saying the program doesn't exist at the same time we have people talking down in Mexico City of what we are trying to accomplish by the illegal sale of guns.

That e-mail I quoted, the recipient of it included Mr. Breuer's deputy, Jason Weinstein, who was helping to write the Justice Department letter to me that they would later withdraw for its inaccuracies. In other words, they wrote a letter to me on February 4 of last year that in October they admitted they misled us. Mr. Weinstein was sending updates about the draft letter to Mr. Breuer in Mexico at the very same time so he cannot say he didn't know about it. Yet, during his testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Mr. Breuer downplayed his involvement in reviewing the draft letter. It is outrageous to me that the head of the Justice Department's Criminal Division proposed exactly what his Department was denying to me was actually happening.

The Justice Department's letter to me clearly said:

ATF makes every effort to interdict weapons that have been purchased illegally and prevent their transportation to Mexico.

They said that at the very same time Mr. Breuer was advocating that a Justice Department operation allow weapons to be transported into Mexico. Further, what Mr. Breuer advocated directly contradicted what the Justice Department said its policy was.

Is it possible they can have it both ways? No, you cannot have it both ways. If they didn't have a policy against such operations, and if the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing, perhaps it is not a surprise that an operation like Fast and Furious sprang up. After all, as that same Justice Department attache wrote of a meeting a few days after his first e-mail:

I raised the issue that there is an inherent risk in allowing weapons to pass from the US to Mexico; the possibility of the [Government of Mexico] not seizing the weapons; and the weapons being used to commit a crime in Mexico.

Well, the light bulb went on. If you are selling 2,000 guns illegally and they don't interdict them, well, yes, they end up murdering hundreds of people in Mexico and at least one person in the United States.

If the Justice Department did have a policy against such operations, this is a record of Mr. Breuer proposing to violate it. That is not just my conclusion, that is the Attorney General's conclusion as well.

At last week's hearing in the House of Representatives, the Attorney General was asked to explain the contradiction between his deputy's anti-gunwalking policy and the evidence of Mr. Breuer's proposed operation to let guns cross the border. He could not answer that question, but the Attorney General answered:

Well, clearly what was proposed in, I guess, February by Lanny Breuer was in contravention of the policy that I had the Deputy Attorney General make clear to everybody at Main Justice and to the field .....

Perhaps this disconnect between Justice Department policy and Lanny Breuer's proposal explains Mr. Breuer's previous inaction to stop gunwalking. When he found out about gunwalking in Operation Wide Receiver in April of 2010, he failed to do anything to stop it or to hold anyone accountable. He simply had his deputy inform ATF leadership.

Regardless, Mr. Breuer's contravention of Justice Department policy is yet another reason why it is long past time for Mr. Breuer to leave the Department of Justice.

Mr. Breuer misled Congress about whether he was aware of the Department's false letter to me. To this day he is still the highest ranking official in any administration that we know was aware of gunwalking in any Federal program, yet he took no action to stop gunwalking. He failed to alert the Attorney General or the inspector general.

Mr. Breuer has failed the Justice Department, and he has failed the American people. This failure raises some important questions. When did Attorney General Holder determine that Mr. Breuer was proposing allowing straw purchasers to reach Mexico with traffic weapons? What has he done about it? Will Mr. Breuer be held accountable for hatching a plan to directly violate the Attorney General's anti-gunwalking policy? The Attorney General clearly testified that the proposal was in contravention of that policy. How does the Justice Department know other senior criminal division officials were not proposing operations similar to Fast and Furious? These are just a subset of

some of the major questions remaining in our investigation of Fast and Furious.

It has now been 1 year since the Department sent me its false letter. How did the Justice Department move from its position of dismissing the complaints of whistleblowers to acknowledging that now those whistleblower complaints are true? What officials were internally dismissive of whistleblower complaints and who believes that they could have merit and should be taken seriously? To what extent did Justice Department officials seek to retaliate against whistleblowers? Exactly how and when did the Justice Department officials begin to learn the truth of what happened?

Former ATF Director Ken Melson has testified how and when he learned that guns had walked in Fast and Furious. What about Attorney General Holder? When and how did he learn guns had walked? What about Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer? A year after Operation Fast and Furious concluded, who will be held accountable? Why didn't top Justice officials see the clear connection between Fast and Furious and previously flawed operations that they have admitted they knew about? How has the Justice Department assessed the mistakes and culpability of these officials?

Finally, it is time for the Justice Department to stop stonewalling and start providing answers. It is time for Holder to share with Congress the other 74,000 pages of documents they have turned over to the inspector general. It is time for Holder to give us access to the dozens of other people the inspector general has been allowed to interview.

In short, it is time for Holder to come clean with the American people. The sooner he does it, and the Department does it, the sooner we can get to the bottom of what happened.
I yield the floor.


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