ABC 15 reports:
Arizona lawmakers plan to launch their own investigation into the flawed Fast and Furious program.
Speaker Andy Tobin, a Republican, created the program that will be chaired by State Representative David Burnell Smith, also a Republican.
In a news release, the lawmakers stated the committee had three goals: determine the facts, determine the impact on Arizona and, most importantly, determine if the feds broke any state laws.
The committee plans to reveal its findings on March 30.
John Hinderaker: Holder’s United Front on Fast and Furious Crumbles:
In an ominous development for the Obama administration, Patrick Cunningham, chief of the Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Arizona, has told the House Oversight Committee that he will assert his privilege against self-incrimination rather than testify before the committee next week.
… it would seem to be a bright line rule that any time a high-ranking official of the Department of Justice pleads the Fifth, a major scandal is under way.
But is some kind of fix in?
Sipsey Street Irregulars: FINALLY. Fifth Amendment Time in the Gunwalker Scandal. FOX breaks the story I knew was coming yesterday: “Federal official in Arizona to plead the fifth and not answer questions on ‘furious’” But, is the fix in? Issa staff reported to have witheld information from Grassley. “The roach motel of press inquiries.”
It is complex because this event comes at what may be a critical juncture in the investigation which some are interpreting as a reluctance on the part of the Issa committee to fully explore the many leads they have already developed because of their political sensitivity.
“I won’t say that the fix is in, but the Committee seems to be buying into the ‘Made-in-Phoenix’ line pushed by the White House,” said one source with inside knowledge of the investigator’s work. This seems to be reflected in the subpoena letter from Issa to Cunningham. From the Politico story linked above:
“Senior Justice Department officials have recently told the Committee that you relayed inaccurate and misleading information to the Department in preparation for its initial response to Congress,” wrote Issa. “These officials told us that even after Congress began investigating Fast and Furious, you continued to insist that no unacceptable tactics were used.”
The White House is happy for Issa to go after Cunningham for this is consistent with their denial that the White House had anything to do with gunwalking. Indeed, from the evidence above it would seem that the White House has determined Cunningham to be one of the designated sacrificial goats to that end.
Sure. Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler, Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden, Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich, ATF Director Kenneth E. Melson, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Administrator Michele Leonhart, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Robert Mueller, U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota/Chair of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee/Acting ATF Director B. Todd Jones, top federal prosecutors in the southwest and White House staffers were all aware of Operation Fast and Furious. So let’s blame it all on the one guy in Arizona.
A Press release from Oversight and Reform:
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Patrick Cunningham, the chief of the criminal division in the Arizona U.S. Attorney’s office, has informed the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that he intends to exercise his fifth amendment right not to incriminate himself next Tuesday at his deposition. Cunningham’s response, made through his lawyer, to a subpoena issued by the committee is extremely rare. More alarming is how broad Cunningham intends to rely on the Fifth Amendment. His lawyer has informed the committee that the only information Cunningham would provide is his name and title at the Department of Justice.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa issued the following statement:
“The assertion of the fifth amendment by a senior Justice official is a significant indictment of the Department’s integrity in Operation Fast and Furious. The former head of the ATF has previously told the committee that the Justice Department is managing its response to Operation Fast and Furious in a manner designed to protect its political appointees. This is the first time anyone has asserted their fifth amendment right in this investigation and heightens concerns that the Justice Department’s motivation for refusing to hand over subpoenaed materials is a desire to shield responsible officials from criminal charges and other embarrassment.
“Coming a year after revelations about reckless conduct in Operation Fast and Furious were first brought to light, the assertion of the fifth amendment also raises questions about whether President Obama and Attorney General Holder have made a serious and adequate response to allegations raised by whistleblowers. Did Attorney General Holder really not know a senior Justice Department official fears criminal prosecution or is this just another example of him hiding important facts? The committee will continue to demand answers.”
The only legally valid reason for asserting the fifth amendment is fear that testimony could aid one’s own criminal prosecution. In his response to the Committee, Cunningham’s lawyer rejected assertions made by other senior Justice Department officials in Washington that his client held key responsibility for reckless tactics in Operation Fast and Furious and false information provided to Congress.