Attorney General Eric Holder has broken an agreement with Republicans by refusing fully to respond to questions on the growing Fast and Furious scandal, Sen. Charles Grassley alleges in an exclusive Newsmax interview.
Grassley said he allowed the nomination of Deputy Attorney General James Cole to move through the Senate in return for a pledge that questions on the gunrunning scheme would be answered.
But Holder’s Department of Justice has stonewalled since Cole was approved in June, the senior senator from Iowa said.
“We’re getting inadequate answers,” he said. “The inadequacy of the answers is a violation of the agreement that we have with the attorney general that we will get all of our questions and sub-questions answered fully, based upon the deal that we made that I would let the nomination for the deputy attorney general move through the Senate.
“Until they did that, I wasn’t going to let it move and that leveraged them to make this agreement with us and they aren’t even following their own agreement with us.”
Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and his House counterpart, Rep. Darrell Issa of California, led the questions on Fast and Furious, a program which allowed about 1,400 weapons to be bought and taken across the Mexican border.
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The idea was that officers from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) would keep track of the guns in the hope that they would lead them to drug cartel kingpins.
The scheme went wrong when most of the guns went missing, and they have been involved in at least 12 crimes in the United States, including the killing of Border Agent Brian Terry, and dozens more in Mexico.
It was reported this week that three agents involved in Fast and Furious had been promoted and moved from Arizona to Washington, D.C.
But Grassley said he has been assured that they were “lateral moves” rather than career advancements.
“I hope that, if you do something wrong, you don’t actually get promoted,” he said. “The Justice Department is trying to explain to us that it was a lateral move and they aren’t getting more money and so it really wasn’t a promotion.
“But I think it is a move to keep them quiet.”
Blowback from the investigations into Fast and Furious has pitted acting ATF Director Kenneth Melson against the Justice Department. Melson claimed he knew nothing of the scheme until January of this year, while the Justice Department said this week that he was told as far back as December 2009.
Grassley said he is tempted to believe Melson’s version. “Mr. Melson has been forthcoming with us to a greater extent than anyone else in the department,” he said, adding that the truth would come out if the Justice Department would only answer his questions.
Grassley said he believes the department is trying to protect senior members of the administration. “When you get runaround the bush and stonewalled the way we were stonewalled by the Justice Department, you wonder how high up they are trying to protect people.”
But he admitted he had no proof when either Holder or President Barack Obama were first told about the existence of Fast and Furious. “This is all the purpose of our oversight: number one, to make sure things like this don’t happen again, and number two, to make sure that whoever was involved in this is held
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