Transcript: Senate Judiciary Committee Sen. Chuck Schumer’s Q&A on Operation Fast & Furious

Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Operation Fast and Furious with Attorney General Eric Holder on Nov. 8, 2011

Transcript of Sen. Chuck Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) Q&A: 

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. IMAGE SOURCE: Judiciary.Senate.gov

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.):

“I’m going to go back to the Fast and Furious issue. There’s been, of course, a lot of focus on the present administration’s dealings with Fast and Furious. But what has been sort of missing – certainly in the House investigation – is that it didn’t start with the Obama administration. It started with Alberto Gonzales and then continued with General Mukasey. And if we want to get to the bottom of it and find out what’s been wrong, I think we have to look at the whole thing. So my questions are somewhat related to that.

“Mr. Attorney General, thank you for being here. As we learned last week, some briefing material on Operation Wide Receiver – the Bush era version of Fast and Furious – was prepared for the Attorney General Mukasey shortly after he took office in preparation for a Nov. 16 meeting with Attorney General Eduardo Medina-Mora of Mexico.

“That wasn’t the beginning. It’s clear now that ATF agents and line prosecutors in Tucson as early as 2006 discussed an ATF proposal to provide guns to criminals “without any further ability by the U.S. government to control their movement or future use.” We know this operation was likely part of Operation Wide Receiver, in which 350 guns were purchased by straw purchasers. As your production of material continues, it’s plausible we’ll find out that this strategy was discussed maybe even before 2006.

“The briefing material from 2007, which was prepared for General Mukasey, stated that “ATF has recently worked jointly with Mexico on the first ever attempt to have a controlled delivery of weapons being smuggled into Mexico by a major arms trafficker. While the first attempts of this controlled delivery have not been successful, the investigation is ongoing. The ATF would like to expand the possibility of such joint investigations and controlled deliveries, since only then it’ll be possible to investigate an entire smuggling network rather than arresting a simple smuggler.” That’s in the memo from General Mukasey, which I think was made public Friday. Then emails indicate that ATF’s assistant director for enforcement reviewed this briefing language.

“So I want to try and figure out who saw the briefing materials so I’m going to ask you about some of the names there that are listed. These are listed at the top of the briefing memo prepared for General Mukasey for the Nov. 16 meeting with Mora.

“My first question, simple one: what position did Matthew Friedrich hold on the date that is on the meeting memo? Do you recall that?”

 

Attorney General Eric Holder: 

“I don’t know, Senator.”

 

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.):

“He was deputy chief of staff to Attorney General Mukasey. And Kevin O’Connor – I won’t ask you that one either – he was associate attorney general; you may have recalled that.

“So I think we can infer that both Mr. Friedrich and Mr. O’Connor were likely to have received the material either before or at the meeting with Attorney General Mora. Given that as well as the fact that the meeting was with General Mukasey’s counterpart in Mexico, I think we can infer that General Mukasey’s highly likely to have attended the November meeting and seen this material. Are you aware of whether General Mukasey reviewed the memo?”

 

Attorney General Eric Holder: 

“I don’t know if he did or not.”

 

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.):

“Okay. I don’t want to vouch for anyone’s attendance at the meeting. Obviously you weren’t there. But I want to be clear about that premise. But with that caveat, are you currently able to say whether there were any other high-ranking DOJ officials who attended the November 2007 meeting?”

 

Attorney General Eric Holder: 

“I just don’t know, Senator, who had attended the meeting.”

 

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.):

“Okay, but it wouldn’t be beyond the pale for other top officials to have been briefed on this either in preparation for this meeting or otherwise, is that correct?”

 

Attorney General Eric Holder: 

“It’s certainly possible. I just don’t know.”

 

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.):

“Right. Okay. Another one. Do you have any knowledge whether Deputy Attorney General Craig Morford was briefed on the program or tactics?”

 

Attorney General Eric Holder: 

“I don’t know that either.”

 

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.):

“Knowledge of any other member of any other departments with border responsibility, DHS or State, brief on the program or these tactics?”

 

Attorney General Eric Holder: 

“I don’t know how extensively it was briefed.”

 

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.):

“Lanny Davis [sic], the current criminal division head, testified he was briefed after it was closed, after Wide Receiver was closed in 2010. Do you know if his predecessor, Alice Fisher, was similarly briefed or took part in meetings?”

 

Attorney General Eric Holder: 

“I do not know.”

 

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.):

“Okay. Yeah, Lanny Breuer, right. Oh, Lanny Breuer – I get those two mixed up – the two Lannys I read about.

“Here’s what I’d ask: could you go back and look at the files or have someone do that and get us information on whether these people who were part of briefings or  part of meetings that might have related to that program, Wide Receiver?”

 

Attorney General Eric Holder: 

“As part of the process in responding to requests for information from the Hill, we are trying to gather information. We may be able to gather from the emails and other materials that we’re gathering some better sense of who was actually briefed with regard to Wide Receiver.”

 

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.):

“Okay. And one other thing. In the prepared remarks made by the Attorney General Mukasey regarding the trip to Mexico, which he made on Jan. 16, he said, “I reiterated for the Attorney General as I do now, the United States is committed to addressing the flow of illegal guns into Mexico. I’ve indicated we’re deploying additional resources to arrest and prosecute violent criminals, to trace the firearms, the tools of the trade use by criminal gangs.” This indicates that gun walking might have been discussed at this meeting as well.

“So once again, is there anything you’re able to say without vouching for anybody’s attendance about that 2008 trip to Mexico? What was discussed? Who might have attended? And if not, can you get us that information?”

 

Attorney General Eric Holder:

“We will attempt to obtain that information. I simply don’t have that information right now.”

 

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.):

“Okay. What I’m getting at here, and why I think it’s important to have answers to this question, is because there’s been a selective way in which this investigation has been pursued so far. It’s sort of one-sided outrage about whole issue when we know now that it began or its progenitor began before you took office – before President Obama took office.

“The House committee chair has said he would look at both sides – wrongdoing on both sides. That hasn’t happened. It appears…It’s a pretty good bet that top officials at the Bush Justice Department, perhaps the Attorney General himself, learned of this operation in its early stages. We know a memo was prepared; we don’t know what he knew. At the very least, they let it continue. For all we know, they’ve endorsed it. And so I think it’s important that we look at both sides.

“My suggestion, Mr. Chairman, is if the House won’t do that, we should. Okay?”

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