Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Fast And Furious - BATF Head Melman To Testify

In a surprise move, Ken Melman, the head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) has been given clearance by the Department of Justice to testify to Congress on his role in Operation Fast and Furious, which had BATF agents allowing straw purchasers to buy over two thousand automatic weapons and then smuggle them illegally across the border to Mexican Drug cartels. The operation led to a spike in violence in Mexico, the killing in Arizona of a U.S. Border Patrol agent last December and what appears to be an attempted cover up by the BATF and the US Department of Justice.

Melman won't be testifying to Rep. Darrel Issa's House Committee but to the Senate Judiciary Committee, dominated by Democrats. The deal came about in spectacularly sleazy fashion, brokered by Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and the committee’s top Republican, Iowa's Charles Grassley.

In exchange for Melman being allowed to testify, Grassley and the Republicans on the committee were finally given full access to BATF documents, Melson, and other key witnesses. In return, Grassley agreed to release a hold three Obama administration nominees he had been blocking; Jim Cole as deputy attorney general, Lisa Monaco as assistant attorney general for national security, and Virginia Seitz to be head of the Office of Legal Counsel.

Obviously Leahy already had access to all of the information when he started wheeling and dealing instead of releasing it to the Committee. Obviously his interest in justice comes in a poor second to partisan advantage, but then, that's no surprise when we're talking about Senator Leahy.

I don't expect mush to come of this, frankly. The Obama Department of Justice wouldn't have allowed Melman to testify unless they had already vetted him carefully and done damage control.

The Obama Administration may have decided to try to limit the fallout by appointing a designated Fall Guy. Since Melman has thus far proved unwilling, the most likely candidate would be Lanny Breur, the head of the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division who has a huge paper trail leading to his involvement. Breuer is a loyal Democrat soldier who represented President Clinton during his impeachment trial and was ex-NSA Sandy Berger's lawyer when Berger stole all those classified documents from the National Archives, so it's not unlikely he would be more than willing to fall on his sword and keep his mouth shut.

One other interesting possibility involves this going further up the ladder, directly to Attorney General Eric Holder. Rep. Darrel Issa has stated that he has evidence that Holder knew about Operation Fast and Furious long before he testified that he did. If Issa can prove that the attorney general was part of a cover-up and/or if something interesting surfaces from Melman's testimony in the Senate or from something that wasn't properly excised from the documents the Senate Republicans now have, it's not that far a leap to see Holder being forced to resign or being impeached.

Stay tuned...

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