CBS News reports:
New documents obtained by CBS News show Attorney General Eric Holder was sent briefings on the controversial Fast and Furious operation as far back as July 2010. That directly contradicts his statement to Congress.
On May 3, 2011, Holder told a Judiciary Committee hearing, “I’m not sure of the exact date, but I probably heard about Fast and Furious for the first time over the last few weeks.”
From July 6 through July 9, the National Drug Intelligence Center Document and Media Exploitation Team at the Phoenix Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) Strike Force will support the Bureau of Alchohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives’ Phoenix Field Division with its investigation of Manuel Celis-Acosta as part of OCDETF Operation Fast and the Furious. This investigation, initiated in September 2009 in conjunction with the Drug Enforcement Administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Phoenix Police Department, involves a Phoenix-based firearms trafficking ring headed by Manuel Celis-Acosta. Celis-Acosta and [redacted] straw purchasers are responsible for the purchase of 1,500 firearms that were then supplied to Mexican drug trafficking cartels. They also have direct ties to the Sinaloa Cartel which is suspected of providing $1 million for the purchase of firearms in the greater Phoenix area.
So Holder was definitely informed of an operation called Fast and Furious. The document doesn’t specifically refer to guns walking, but it does say that the firearms in question were supplied to Mexican drug cartels, which (as Allahpundit points out) is never supposed to happen in ATF sting operations. This should have raised a red flag.
Some of Holder’s chief deputies were certainly aware of guns being walked. (Eric Holder’s chief of staff for one, according to Rep. Issa and Senator Grassley.) Another document obtained by CBS shows an email conversation between Jason Weinstein, Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division, and James Trusty, Deputy Chief of the National Gang Unit. They discuss gunwalking explicitly:
WEINSTEIN: Do you think we should try to have Lanny [Breuer, Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division] participate in press when Fast and Furious and Laura’s Tucson case are unsealed? It’s a tricky case, given the number of guns that have walked. . .
TRUSTY: I think so, but the timing will be tricky, too. . . It’s not going to be any big surprise that a bunch of US guns are being used in MX, so I’m not sure how much grief we get for “guns walking.” It may be more like, “Finally, they’re going after people who sent guns down there.”
This shows that Weinstein and Trusty specifically knew that guns were walking. (Eric Holder said last month that no one in “the upper levels of the Justice Department” knew about Gunwalker.) It also shows that the “tricky” issue of gunwalking was specifically being considered by the people who set Lanny Breuer’s schedule.
ASIDE: Worse, the email also shows that these guys were thinking about gunwalking in the context of “going after people who sent guns down there”, which is to say, their gun-control agenda.
The DOJ replied to this with a howler:
The Justice Department told CBS News that the officials in those emails were talking about a different case started before Eric Holder became Attorney General.
Impossible. The documents mention Fast and Furious by name. The DOJ also said:
And tonight they tell CBS News, Holder misunderstood that question from the committee – he did know about Fast and Furious – just not the details.
We can believe that, or not. It’s not very plausible, given how many people around him knew, and anyway, Holder’s words were quite specific:
I probably heard about Fast and Furious for the first time over the last few weeks.
That statement, incidentally, was made under oath.
Now the Justice Department has fallen back on an even more basic defense. They say that Holder doesn’t always read his briefings. Terrific.
(Via Power Line.)
UPDATE: Holder must have ignored at least five memos.