Rumors have been swirling since a Wall Street Journal piece over the weekend that Acting ATF Director Ken Melson, who has not been doing a very good job of acting like a director, will resign over the “Gun Walker” scandal soon. Today, CNN is running a story that Melson is “expected to resign under pressure, perhaps in the next day or two,” according to senior federal law enforcement sources.
The AFT hasn’t had a real director for two years. Melson is a bench-warmer. He’s only there because the director Obama really wants, Andrew Traver of the Chicago office, would face stiff opposition from gun-rights groups during his confirmation hearings. That makes Melson an ideal fall guy.
Furthermore, Melson put a “face” on the Gun Walker scandal after outrageous reports of the Acting Director watching straw gun purchases from his office computer reached the press. That’s the kind of image that just sticks in the public mind, especially since he was reportedly made very happy by a series of events that culminated in the deaths of both Mexicans and Americans.
The problem for the Administration is that nobody at House Oversight is going to buy Melson as the architect of the Gun Walker horror. He was faithfully executing a plan hatched by someone else. If he gets an indictment, instead of just losing a “temporary” job he’s held for two years, he might be willing to talk about who that was. The list of possible suspects is short, and explosive.
House Oversight chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) has described the Gun Walker project and its “Operation Fast and Furious” as “felony stupid.” It’s obvious after his hearings that “stupidity” is an implausible excuse for what happened, since so many ATF agents were (sometimes literally) screaming warnings at their superiors. The hearings also revealed that the previously stated rationale for the operation – flood Mexico with guns to arrest the cartel bosses who purchased them – was never the real mission plan, because there was simply no expectation that the guns could be traced that way. This wasn’t just a weird idea executed badly.
Take away the “stupid” part of Issa’s formulation, and you’re left with the “felony” part. In a Friday interview with CNS News, Issa characterized a stonewalling letter from Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich to Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) as a “lie” that has been contradicted by sworn testimony from ATF agents. Issa also complained about “excessive and unjustifiable” redactions in Justice Department documents, and basically accused Attorney General Eric Holder of lying to the House Judiciary Committee when he claimed to have been ignorant of “Operation Fast and Furious” until April 2010.
Last week’s joint report from House Oversight and the Senate Judiciary Committee concluded that “Operation Fast and Furious” was “known and authorized at the highest levels of the Justice Department.” That’s way past Ken Melson’s temporary pay grade.