Fast and Furious: Enter Valerie Jarrett
Yesterday watchdog group Judicial Watch finally received the court-ordered index of documents shielded by President Obama’s use of executive privilege in the Operation Fast and Furious scandal. It’s a huge list – over fifteen thousand documents are referenced – so it’s taking some time to comb through.
The index does not contain the actual text of the documents themselves, so many Fast and Furious secrets remain safely buried, but there is a brief description of what the document supposedly contains, and why it was deemed valid for the President to conceal it with executive privilege. Right out of the gate, Judicial Watch noticed a few oddities, such as “nearly 20 email communications between Holder and his spouse Sharon Malone.”
Dr. Sharon Malone is a gynecologist, so it’s not clear what contribution she would make to a massive gun-running scandal that would warrant secrecy through executive privilege. The index claims these emails were “subject to withholding under the deliberative process exemption,” which Judicial Watch notes is supposed to “exempt from public disclosure records that could chill internal government deliberations.” Dr. Malone is not a government official.
There’s also a good deal of correspondence between Attorney General Holder and the White House, which is difficult to square with all the copious assurances we were given that the President knew absolutely nothing about Operation Fast and Furious. At the very least, it’s clear Holder was coordinating spin control and media manipulation tactics with the White House during the toughest days of the scandal. And that’s where Barack Obama’s mysteriously powerful top aide, Valerie Jarrett, comes in:
Practically lost in the 1,000-plus pages of records is an index that shows Jarrett was brought in to manage the fact that Holder lied to Congress after the story about the disastrous gun-running operation broke in the media. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF) ran the once-secret program that allowed guns from the U.S. to be smuggled into Mexico so they could eventually be traced to drug cartels. Instead, federal law enforcement officers lost track of hundreds of weapons which have been used in an unknown number of crimes, including the murder of a U.S. Border Patrol agent in Arizona.
The files received by JW include three electronic mails between Holder and Jarrett and one from former U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke to Jarrett. The e-mails with Holder are all from October 4, 2011, a significant date because, on the evening of October 3rd, Sharyl Attkisson (then at CBS news) released documents showing that Holder had been sent a briefing paper on Operation Fast and Furious on June 5, 2010. The paper was from the director of the National Drug Intelligence Center, Michael Walther.
Brace yourself for a shock, because that’s all very different than what Eric Holder said to Congress during sworn testimony:
This directly contradicted Holder’s May 3, 2011 testimony to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, during which he stated that he, “probably heard about Fast and Furious for the first time over the last few weeks.” The October 4, 2011 date may also be significant because it came shortly after the August 30, 2011 resignation of U.S. Attorney for Arizona Dennis Burke and reassignment of acting ATF director Kenneth Melson to the position of “senior forensics advisor” at DOJ.
The description of one of the e-mails, written from Jarrett to Holder, reads, “re: personnel issues.” Another, also from Jarrett, reads, “outlining and discussing preferred course of action for future responses in light of recent development in congressional investigation.” Unfortunately, the index is vague and that’s all the information we have about them. Nevertheless, given the timing and subject of these e-mails, it seems clear that Jarrett quickly became a key player in the Fast and Furious cover-up in the immediate aftermath of the revelation that Holder had lied to Congress.
So in May, Holder is under oath, telling Congress that he heard about Operation Fast and Furious for the first time just a few weeks previously, but in October, Sharyl Attkisson does some of that “reporting” the rest of the media is so reluctant to perpetrate against the Obama Administration, and reveals Holder was sent briefing papers all the way back in 2010. A burst of email traffic between Holder, key Fast and Furious player Dennis Burke, and Obama’s top adviser occurs the next day. Holder ended up defending himself against accusations of perjury by claiming he doesn’t read his mail, so he never saw the briefing papers on a huge, out-of-control DOJ operation that killed hundreds of people in Mexico, plus U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry.
And one of the emails from Jarrett to Holder was labeled “re: personnel issues?” No, that’s not fishy at all.
Operation Fast and Furious was also explained away as a strictly local bungle by the ATF office in Phoenix, Arizona – an early version of the “low-level employees in Cincinnati” dodge that we heard during the early days of the IRS scandal – but the index of protected documents verifies what those following the story closely have always known: it was much bigger than that. “The scandal required the attention of virtually every top official of the DOJ and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF),” reports Judicial Watch. “Communications to and from the United States Ambassador to Mexico about the Fast and Furious matter are also described.”
And we’re nowhere near done with the fallout from this nightmare, as some other documents recently obtained by Judicial Watch make clear. (FYI to the mainstream media: you guys can file Freedom of Information Act requests, too, and you can sue the Administration for failing to comply with them.)
An October 16 letter sent from Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Rep. Darryl Issa (R-CA) to Deputy Attorney General James Cole discloses that “we have learned of another crime gun connected to Fast and Furious. The [Justice] Department did not provide any notice to the Congress or the public about this gun.” Grassley (Ranking Member on the Senate Judiciary Committee) and Issa (Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee) detail:
“Based on the serial number [1977DX1654] from the police report obtained by Judicial Watch and documents obtained during our Fast and Furious investigation, we can confirm that the assault rifle recovered in the vehicle on July 30, 2013, was purchased by Sean Christopher Stewart. Stewart pled guilty to firearms trafficking charges resulting from his involvement with Operation Fast and Furious … Stewart purchased this particular firearm on December 8, 2009, one of 40 that he purchased that day while under ATF surveillance” (emphasis in original document).
The Phoenix Police reports, which the letter from Congress references, were obtained by Judicial Watch thanks to a lawsuit filed against the City of Phoenix, AZ, seeking the Police Department’s records about the gang assault (Judicial Watch v. City of Phoenix (No. CV2014- 012018)). The lawsuit was filed on October 2 after the City of Phoenix ignored an August 5, 2014, Arizona Public Records Law request for information about the crime and the guns. Judicial Watch believed the reports detailed that a weapon or weapons used in the assault are connected to the federal government’s Fast and Furious gunrunning operation. Today’s letter from Grassley and Issa is official confirmation of Judicial Watch’s understanding from other sources.
Three weeks following the July 29, 2013, assault, four suspects were apprehended in a raid conducted jointly by Phoenix police detectives and investigators from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). According to press reports at the time “numerous rifles and handguns” were found when, “Detectives from the Phoenix Police Department and Homeland Security Investigations served federal search warrants.”
A year elapsed after ATF traced this weapon, and still the Justice Department didn’t notify Congress that it was a Fast and Furious gun. “This lack of transparency about the consequences of Fast and Furious undermines public confidence in law enforcement and gives the impression that the Department is seeking to suppress information and limit its exposure to public scrutiny,” fumed Senator Grassley.
Let’s wait until every Fast and Furious gun has been recovered, and every document President Obama kept secret with dubious executive privilege claims has been revealed, before we decide this is an “old story,” okay, media? I’m sure the family of Brian Terry would appreciate your continued diligence.