Grassley/Issa letter to Justice Department cites its failure to notify Congress, credits Judicial Watch with overcoming DOJ attempt to “limit its exposure to public scrutiny”
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch today announced that, based on information uncovered through a Judicial Watch public records lawsuit against the City of Phoenix, the U.S. Congress has confirmed that an AK 47 rifle used in a July 29, 2013, gang-style assault on an apartment building that left two people wounded was part of the Obama Department of Justice (DOJ) Operation Fast and Furious gunrunning program.
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]
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.”
The presence of DHS investigators raised questions because Phoenix was the location of the ATF’s deadly Fast and Furious gunrunning operation. Operation Fast and Furious was a Justice Department/ Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) program in which the Obama administration allowed guns to go to Mexican drug cartels in the hopes that the guns would end up at crime scenes, thereby advancing gun-control policies. Fast and Furious weapons have been implicated in the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and hundreds of other innocents in Mexico.
In today’s letter to Cole, Grassley accused the Justice Department of a “lack of transparency” for failing to notify Congress of the discovery of the Fast and Furious weapon at the Phoenix crime site:
According to the Phoenix Police Department report, ATF traced the firearm on July 31, 2013, the day after Phoenix police officers recovered it. Yet, over a full year has passed, and the Department has failed to notify the Committees … 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.
The failure to provide Congress with reports about the Phoenix crime scene is not the first time the Obama Justice Department has been accused of withholding Fast and Furious information. On June 28, 2012, Attorney General Eric Holder was held in contempt by the House of Representatives over his refusal to turn over documents about why the Obama administration may have lied to Congress and refused for months to disclose the truth about the gunrunning operation. It marked the first time in U.S. history a sitting Attorney General was held in contempt of Congress.
As a result of a major court ruling in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice (Judicial Watch v. Department of Justice (No. 1:12-cv-01510), Judicial Watch will obtain by October 22 information that has been kept secret by President Obama from both Congress and the American people for nearly three years. Attorney General Holder announced his surprise retirement two days after the federal court ruling.
“Thanks to our lawsuit, Congress has been able to confirm what Judicial Watch already reported – that a Fast and Furious weapon was used in yet another violent crime that terrorized and injured residents of Phoenix,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Our lawsuit against Phoenix exposed how the Obama cover-up of Fast and Furious is ongoing. Eric Holder’s Department of Justice is a mess. It has endangered the public and is engaged in an ongoing cover-up of its insanely reckless Fast and Furious gun-running operation. Judicial Watch appreciates the refreshing diligence of Senator Grassley and Congressman Issa in pursuing the truth about Fast and Furious.”