Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., says the Obama administration’s Fast and Furious gun trafficking operation could have violated international arms trafficking agreements and that criminal charges are a possibility.
Answering a question from firearms and Second Amendment analyst David Codrea during a conference call, Issa said his House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is investigating both issues.
“Understand, it’s hard to get the Justice Department to prosecute the Justice Department, so we’re not at the point where we get that kind of enforcement,” Issa said.
“This is part of where I think this administration has the most to learn. The Bush administration supported the Second Amendment strongly and supported strong prosecution of those who trafficked in weapons,” Issa said.
“But this administration seems to obviously encourage trafficking of weapons in the case of Fast and Furious and then it’s been very reluctant to have any prosecution as we already have sworn testimony that this was a problem with the U. S. attorney. [He] never seemed to see a case that had enough evidence to prosecute,” he said.
Issa believes that on the issue of the weapon that is reported to have disappeared from the U.S. Border Agent Brian Terry murder scene, there could be a point when FBI Director Robert Mueller is forced to testify.
“The weapon that disappeared from the scene says that people were panicking and that somebody probably did something wrong at the scene. But let’s understand that there were a number of events like that and we do want to have the director and others answer it,” Issa said.
Listen to an interview with Issa:
“Certainly when Gabby Giffords was shot and a federal judge was assassinated, this is a time in which everybody down there on the inside was panicking that these could be Fast and Furious weapons,” Issa said.
“They should have asked … why wasn’t this program reversed sooner? We don’t have answers for that,” he added..
“You’re a little incredulous to believe that so many people at the top didn’t, shouldn’t have known, that they didn’t know, was it more than an accident,” Issa said. “Had they said, ‘Please don’t read me into the program’? To get that you have to go up through everybody who was read into the program to find out at what point it stopped and why.”
That’s a question Issa is taking seriously.
“We’re following every lead. … Just as Solyndra isn’t about one loan, this is not about one sale or one group of sales,” Issa explained.
“It’s about a pattern of indifference towards the rules that have been established on how you view operations that include deadly weapons,” he said..
“Every single agent we’ve ever talked to has said you don’t let guns walk. In this case, that administration took an active hand in deliberately letting guns walk, so you’re (to Firearms and National Security writer Mike Vanderboegh) absolutely right. We’re looking and saying, ‘Who are the management?’ Who are the higher ups that did this?’” Issa added.
Issa turned his attention to former Acting ATF Director Ken Melson.
“Ken Melson has certainly been complicit, but complicit without a lot of knowledge… When he knew it all he said it made him sick to his stomach,” Issa said.
“Having him under oath, we’re now going through and finding equivalent people to say, ‘You started this, how is it that you didn’t know enough to stop it. And if you did know enough, why didn’t you stop it?’” he said.
Issa admits that neither he nor his committee has authority beyond issuing subpoenas. However, he says that a special prosecutor has broader authority to act, a development he supports.
“I would like to see that. We were very happy to see the U. S. attorney’s office in Phoenix relieved of these prosecutions so that we can have somebody not tarnished by actually creating the problem they’re charged with prosecuting,” Issa explained.
“Yes, we would like to have a true special prosecutor on this, particularly when it’s obvious that if [Attorney General] Eric Holder didn’t know, it’s obvious that he didn’t want to know or because he wasn’t doing his job. That creates a clear pattern of we’d like to know who did know and why they didn’t brief the attorney general,” Issa stated.
Issa said he would like to wrap up the investigation by the end of the year, but if legislation is required, the process may take longer.
He added that cooperation from the White House would help.
Issa and Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Charles Grassley asked the White House to formally turn over “all records” relating to three White House officials.
Issa said the cooperation isn’t there.
“We’re still anticipating that, but because we know that there was correspondence that led to additional talk, we want to have a full understanding of what was told and what wasn’t told,” Issa explained.
“We’re much more interested in just getting an honest answer than trying to make a point that there was some kind of communication that should have caused this plan to be shortcut by the White House,” he said.
“To a certain extent we want to be reasonable as long as we get answers. If we don’t get them (answers), then we have to go through each individual under oath, and I think the White House understands that. So, we’re expecting this week to be the week we get answers or go to the next level,” Issa added.
Issa said that at present, there is no evidence that former U. S. Attorney for Arizona Dennis Burke ever briefed Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
“Janet Napolitano admits that once Brian Terry was killed, she was read in. Now we’re trying to figure out who before that in her department knew,” Issa said.
Issa said Napolitano has some issues of her own.
“It’s one of the interesting things about the secretary is that she seems to know everything and be running everything unless something goes wrong. It’s been one of our problems as you know that she’s been investigated for her key political appointees,” Issa stated.
“This is an organization where ‘Freedom of Information’ is an oxymoron,” Issa observed.
Issa also agreed with one of the questioners that Fast and Furious made no sense as a law enforcement operation. However, he’s hesitant to say that there were other motives behind the operation.
“The conspiracy floated out there constantly is that this was a back door way to get an assault weapons ban back in place. Here’s what seems to be easy to understand,” Issa explained.
“That administration wanted to show that guns in Mexico predominantly came from the U.S. My problem is that whether under the conspiracy or simply wanting to show that they couldn’t get the same information by simply cooperating with the Mexican government,” Issa added. “Show us the serial numbers, we’ll count off how many came from the U. S. versus how many didn’t.”
Issa has not set a date for the next set of Fast and Furious hearings.