The Thursday edition of the Morning Jolt features a discussion of the power of messages against the power of events, the latest news on the investigation in the Benghazi attack, and this important point to keep in mind when you hear that the Department of Justice’s inspector general’s report on “Fast and Furious” exonerated Attorney General Eric Holder:
The Slow and Credulous Inspector General’s Report on Fast and Furious
Nineteen months in the making, the Department of Justice’s Inspector General finally dropped the nearly 500-page report on Fast and Furious.
Over at the Guardian, I wrote:
The initial headlines screamed the IG report exonerated Holder. That’s one interpretation, although the portrait the report paints of Holder’s management is deeply disturbing. Time and again, information and warnings about the operation’s enormous risks flow from Arizona to Washington . . . and suddenly, mysteriously stop just short of Holder.
The Inspector General’s report concludes that they can find no evidence Holder knew about Fast & Furious until well after Terry’s death, but . . . well, the circumstances of Holder being so out of the loop, so in the dark about a major operation certainly appears unusual — perhaps to the point of straining credulity.
The report states:
“We found it troubling that a case of this magnitude and that affected Mexico so significantly was not directly briefed to the Attorney General. We would usually expect such information to come to the Attorney General through the Office of the Deputy Attorney General . . . [Holder] was not told in December 2010 about the connection between the firearms found at the scene of the shooting and Operation Fast and Furious. Both Acting Deputy Attorney General Grindler and Counsel to the Attorney General and Deputy Chief of Staff Wilkinson were aware of this significant and troubling information by December 17, 2010, but did not believe the information was sufficiently important to alert the Attorney General about it or to make any further inquiry regarding this development.”
Not “sufficiently important”? Baffling. Maddening. Some might even say, ‘implausible.’
Time and again, everyone under Holder seems to do everything possible to make sure he isn’t informed about an operation that, in the words of the IG report, failed “to adequately consider the risk to public safety in the United States and Mexico.” In fact, information about the program went all the way to Holder’s office . . . but somehow the memos, e-mails, and other communication never got to the man himself. It’s as if he wasn’t there.
If you want to interpret that as a subtle “empty chair” allusion, feel free.
“As we describe below, we identified information regarding Operation Fast and Furious that reached the Office of the Attorney General in 2010 but not Attorney General Holder himself.”
If you’re wondering if this is covered by some sort of obscure procedure or rules, it isn’t: “[Holder] should have been informed by no later than December 17, 2010, that two firearms recovered at the Terry murder scene were linked to an ATF firearms trafficking investigation. . . . We found that although [Holder’s then deputy-chief-of-staff Monty] Wilkinson forwarded to Holder during the afternoon of December 15 three emails from the U.S. Attorney’s Office providing further details about the shooting and law enforcement efforts to find and arrest the suspects, he did not notify the Attorney General of the revelation that two weapons found at the murder scene were linked to a suspect in an ATF firearms trafficking investigation.
A suspicious mind could look at this strange pattern of underling after deputy after staffer not mentioning critical information, and information getting all the way to Holder’s office but not seen by the man himself, and conclude Holder’s staffers were keeping him in the dark to preserve his “plausible deniability.” Or perhaps someone just wasn’t honest with the inspector general.
We now know that the best that can be said about Holder is that he was oblivious to a major, exceptionally dangerous operation going on within his organization. The most generous interpretation is that he staffed his office with professionals with epically egregious judgment in deciding what the nation’s top law-enforcement officer needs to know.
For what it’s worth, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Darrell Issa wants to see a lot of heads roll, and argues that Holder doesn’t have any excuses, either:
“The Inspector General’s report confirms findings by Congress’ investigation of a near total disregard for public safety in Operation Fast and Furious. Contrary to the denials of the Attorney General and his political defenders in Congress, the investigation found that information in wiretap applications approved by senior Justice Department officials in Washington did contain red flags showing reckless tactics and faults Attorney General Eric Holder’s inner circle for their conduct.
“Former Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler, Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer who heads the Criminal Division, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein, Arizona U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke, and Holder’s own Deputy Chief of Staff Monty Wilkinson are all singled out for criticism in the report. It’s time for President Obama to step in and provide accountability for officials at both the Department of Justice and ATF who failed to do their jobs. Attorney General Holder has clearly known about these unacceptable failures yet has failed to take appropriate action for over a year and a half.”