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U.S. Rep. Allen West
A new member of Congress who rode into office during the 2010 American rejection of Washington’s business-as-usual practice today said that a special prosecutor needs to review the actions of Attorney General Eric Holder regarding the “Fast and Furious” gun scandal where weapons were sold to carriers known to supply Mexican drug lords, and the circumstances make it appear that President Obama could have dirty hands in the deal.
During an appearance on the Steve Gill Show, U.S. Rep. Allen West said the roads that appear to lead to those responsible for the botched program that was supposed to trace guns to high-ranking drug lords are alarming.
“This is just another sad chapter in the Eric Holder book of ineptness and incompetence,” West said. “Eric Holder needs to be brought before an investigative committee and if those charges are warranted he needs to be held accountable.
“At least the president needs to realize that Eric Holder needs to be removed from the Department of Justice … or else it appears President Obama is complicit and in approval of the actions of his attorney general,” he said.
West’s comments came in the wake of word from Acting Director Kenneth Melson of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that the DOJ blocked him and other senior agency officials from cooperating with members of Congress who were investigating the scandal.
West, R-Fla., said the solution is an independent special prosecutor who would be assigned to look into the roles of top DOJ officials, such as Holder, regarding the “Fast and Furious” gun-running scheme.
“If all roads lead to him as far as obstructing justice, then we’ve got to have that special investigation,” West said.
Those revelations by Melson are fueling the outrage among members of Congress who have had concerns about the situation, especially because it appears at least one of the weapons dispatched by the federal government to a drug gang was used in an attack that killed a U.S. Border Patrol agent.
Officials with the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform have been looking into the circumstances, but were tight-lipped today in light of the new developments.
“I can say that this is an ongoing investigation and that when details become available, Mr. [Darrell] Issa [Republican from California] will make them public,” the committee’s press office explained.
It was in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder that Committee Chairman Issa and Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley said after Melson’s Monday testimony, they were disturbed to learn that guns may have been taken across the border by known criminals and that they’re determined to learn more.
“The evidence we have gathered raises the disturbing possibility that the Justice Department not only allowed criminals to smuggle weapons but that taxpayer dollars from other agencies may have financed those engaging in such activities. While this is preliminary information, we must find out if there is any truth to it,” Issa and Grassley wrote.
The letter also said that Melson only learned about the charge of criminals carrying the guns to Mexico after the fact.
“According to Acting Director Melson, he became aware of this startling possibility only after the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and the indictments of the straw purchasers, which we now know were substantially delayed by the U.S.,” Issa and Grassley wrote.
Firearms law analyst and writer David Codrea believes that even if there is evidence to prove that known criminals took the guns to Mexico with taxpayer money, nothing is likely to be done with the evidence.
“If left to Holder’s Justice Department, nothing, because it shows this had to be top-level DoJ-authorized. That’s probably a question for Issa’s office, although I doubt they’d be inclined to respond and we’ll need to see how things play out with them as further hearings are held,” Codrea said.
According the committee report, other federal agencies have also been drawn into the operation. The DEA, FBI and upper-level DOJ officers, including the U. S. attorney’s office in Phoenix have been named.
The Issa-Grassley letter also says Melson was surprised about the depth of the operation
Once the Fast and Furious operation was made public, several agents and supervisors were reassigned from the Phoenix office. Melson allegedly made the reassignments but was told by DOJ officials not to report the reassignments to Issa’s committee.
Spokeswoman Becca Watkins of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform said there was pressure being applied.
“He [Melson] didn’t say anything to the committee because the ATF operates under the DOJ,” Watkins said.
Codrea said the explanation for Melson’s silence is something the DOJ will have to tell under oath, but he has his own suspicion.
“That is a question for DOJ officials – under oath. My sense is because any shared information provides another thread to pull, and they don’t want the fabric to unravel, so they’re keeping a lid on all information and only providing bare minimal responses that have been carefully vetted for damage control,” Codrea said.
There is also speculation about whether Melson will resign, something that Issa and Grassley address in their letter to Holder.
“In the last few weeks, unnamed administration officials have indicated to the press that Acting Director Melson would be forced to resign. According to Mr. Melson, those initial reports were untrue. Regardless of what we might have thought before about how he should handle a request to resign, we now know he has not been asked to resign,” the letter stated.
“We also now have the benefit of hearing his side of the story and will have a chance to examine what he said and compare it to the other evidence we are gathering. However, that will take some time,” the letter added.
The Issa-Grassley letter asserts that Melson is being pressured to leave, even though Melson knew that the appointment was supposed to be temporary.
“In 2009, he said he was asked to take over as acting director of the ATF. Acting director of the ATF is by its nature a temporary job. According to Mr. Melson, he was willing to serve the department with the understanding that after a short tenure as acting director, he would return to a position as a career senior executive elsewhere within the department,” the letter read.
“However, two days after he told Acting Deputy Attorney General Cole about serious issues involving lack of information sharing, the Wall Street Journal reported that unnamed sources said that Melson was about to be ousted,” the letter added.
Codrea agrees with that assessment and says the administration has a political motive.
“They wanted him to go quietly and they’d get their preferred anti-gun advocate Andrew Traver to bring the Chicago Way to the Bureau – either as acting or through a recess appointment as he’s already pretty much been rejected through normal channels,” Codrea said.
Melson’s admissions were made public in a “Tweet” posted by Issa on his Twitter account.
The Tweet said, ATF Acting Director Melson spilling the beans to Darrell Issa! Issa Tweet! Darrell Issa â€¨â€¨#AskObama: who is right on #fastandfurious: Eric Holder or #ATF Dir.Melson, whom we just interviewed? INFO: http://1.usa.gov/pvqXJQ #2nd.â€¨PDF File letter by Issa & Grassley http://oversight.house.gov/images/stories/Letters…”