Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) says a key witness in the Fast and Furious investigation is forbidden by the U.S. Department of Justice from testifying. Kevin O’Reilly was a White House National Security staffer who had on-going email communications with AFT Phoenix manager than Bill Newell. The investigation is attempting to determine who, at the highest levels of Government, knew about and allowed high-powered weapons to end-up in the hands of Mexican cartels, some of which were used in the murders of two Border Patrol agents, and linked to hundreds of other deaths. With the final word coming down that Kevin O’Reilly is officially blocked from testifying, the DOJ has admitted culpability. Otherwise, why hide a witness? Memo: No Justice from Obama’s Department of Justice.
Two of the emails from Newell to O’Reilly began with “you didn’t get these from me.” Note the subject line says GRIT, which refers to GunRunner Impact Team. GunRunner is was considered a legal and above-board operation, so why Newell would want to connection to it is odd. Here’s why:
Like so many border programs run amok, Project Gunrunner was the spawn of Beltway bipartisanship. It was established in 2005 as a pilot project under the Bush administration and run by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. The intended goal of the program’s sting operations: stop illicit firearms trafficking along the Southwest border through close surveillance of undercover gun purchases and coordinated intervention with Mexico. The deadly result: federally sanctioned gunwalking of high-powered weapons from U.S. officials right into the hands of drug-cartel killers.
By 2008, Project Gunrunner’s bureaucratic fiefdom had expanded rapidly along the U.S.–Mexico border and into the nine U.S. consulates in Mexico. The office raked in $2 million more through the little-scrutinized Merida Initiative, which Hispanic vote-pandering Republicans rammed through in a war supplemental bill. Despite warnings from the DOJ inspector general that tracking and assessment measures needed improvement, the payroll exploded from a few dozen to more than 200 by 2009. Under the Obama administration, ATF reaped another $21.9 million to expand Project Gunrunner (nearly half from the stimulus boondoggle), and the White House has requested almost $12 million more in fiscal year 2011 appropriations for the program.
Project Gunrunner’s reach and authority continues to grow despite dire, prolonged warnings from insiders and whistleblowers that countless monitored guns have been passed on to violent criminals without being intercepted as planned. Following up on leads first published at www.cleanupatf.org and the blogs of gun-rights advocates David Codrea and Mike Vanderboegh, CBS News reported last month that Project Gunrunner “allegedly facilitated the delivery of thousands of guns into criminal hands.”
One of those guns was used by Mexican gang thugs who murdered U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry last December. At least six veteran ATF agents and executives stepped forward to expose how ATF presided over the purchase of hundreds of high-powered rifles and pistols — over the objection of the very private gun shops that the Obama administration’s anti-gun zealots have vilified.
One whistleblower familiar with Project Gunrunner’s Phoenix offshoot, dubbed “Operation Fast and Furious,” told CBS News: “The numbers are over 2,500 on that case by the way. That’s how many guns were sold — including some 50-calibers they let walk.” The weapon used in the Mexico slaying of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Special Agent Jaime Zapata has also been linked to Project Gunrunner surveillance operation subjects.
White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler sent a letter Thursday to Republican lawmakers Rep. Darrell Issa and Sen. Chuck Grassley, refusing their request to speak with Kevin O’Reilly, a former National Security staff member whose emails place him in the middle of the unfolding scandal. Issa and Grassley had written to Ruemmler on March 28, asking the White House to step aside and let O’Reilly talk to investigators.
Grassley is the GOP ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Issa chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, whose members include Chaffetz.
“[O’Reilly’s] personal attorney indicated that he’s more than willing to talk to the committee, on the record, under oath”” Chaffetz told Kelly during her Friday afternoon broadcast. “It is only the White House and the White House Counsel that is saying they will not make him available.” (RELATED: Full coverage of Operation Fast and Furious)
…Their emails suggest that Newell was directly briefing O’Reilly on Fast and Furious…
In another, Newell said, “Just don’t want ATF HQ to find out, especially since this is what they should be doing (briefing you!).”
(Note: In the Daily Caller article, Newell is referred to as “Frank Newell.” I have identified him as William (Bill) Newell in past articles, and as seen on the graphic above. Maybe there are two Newells involved.)
O’Reilly’s attorney says his client is “more than willing to talk to the committee, on the record, under oath”
The Kathryn Ruemmler memo (read it here) also denies the existence of any “inappropriate” information in the communications. So…the DOJ is banning the witness from testifying. LOL! And they will get away with it unless Congressional investigators, Rep. Issa and Senator Grassley take very tough measures:
“[N]one of these limited communications between Mr. O’Reilly and Mr. Newell revealed the existence of any of the inappropriate investigative tactics at issue in your inquiry, let alone any decisions to allow guns to ‘walk.’”
Ruemmler also cited executive privilege and confidentiality as reasons for denying the lawmakers’ request.
Chaffetz said that the House oversight committee did not receive the emails from the White House, even though the documents were covered by at least one of several subpoenas Congress has issued.
“A brave whistleblower stepped up and gave us these documents,” Chaffetz said on Fox News.
“We have issued twenty-two sets of subpoenas,” Chaffetz added. “For thirteen categories of those subpoenas, the White House has provided zero documents.”
Speaking specifically about the White House’s failure to fully comply with the subpoenas, Chaffetz said, “How dare you? How come you did not provide these documents to the committee when we issued this subpoena? And they unilaterally decided this was not important, which is totally unacceptable.”
“You cannot just ignore subpoenas,” the congressman insisted. “That’s why we are on a collision course where we’ll have to come to the decision to say, ‘are we going to hold the Department of Justice, Eric Holder, in contempt and go through contempt proceedings?’”
Note to House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell: S.T.A.Y.O.U.T.O.F.T.H.I.S. unless you have your big boy pants on. For all the latest news on Fast and Furious and Project GunRunner, visit Si Vis Pacem.