Entries in House Oversight and Government Reform Committee (3)


ATF Chief Secretly Tells Congress about Controversial Gun Program

John Foxx/Stockbyte/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The acting head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) voluntarily appeared before two congressional oversight committees and revealed that senior Justice Department officials tried to limit his communications with Congress about an investigation into a controversial ATF program known as "Fast and Furious," according to a letter from the heads of two oversight committees.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, have been investigating a program where ATF agents recorded and tracked straw purchases of weapons and allowed the guns to "walk" across the U.S. border into Mexico in an effort to locate major weapons traffickers.

Rather than appear with lawyers from the Justice Department and the ATF, Acting Director Ken Melson hired his own private attorney and secretly appeared before congressional investigators on July 4.  According to sources close to the investigation, Melson had previously wanted to testify before the oversight committees but Justice Department officials sought to delay his testimony.

Melson's testimony came weeks after three current ATF agents who were involved with the program testified before Congress about the botched operation and how the ATF failed to stop guns from going to Mexico.

The operation took a tragic turn in December 2010 when two weapons found at the scene where Border Patrol agent Brian Terry was murdered were linked to the ATF program.  According to reports by the ABC News affiliate in Phoenix, other guns from the program have now been linked to additional crimes.

ATF officials say they were trying to build cases that would allow them to target senior drug cartel leaders and key weapons traffickers, not low-level gun runners.

According to a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder from Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Sen. Grassley, Melson expressed dismay over how the operation was run and that "he was sick to his stomach" when he reviewed internal documents.  The letter also notes that Melson's testimony corroborated information that the Drug Enforcement Administration and FBI may have had a role in the operation.

The letter sent to Attorney General Holder notes of Melson's testimony: "He was candid in admitting mistakes that his agency made and described various ways he says that he tried to remedy the problems.  According to Mr. Melson, it was not until after the public controversy that he personally reviewed hundreds of documents relating to the case, including wiretap applications and Reports of Investigation (ROIs).  By his account, he was sick to his stomach when he obtained those documents and learned the full story."

Melson testified that he and top management at ATF moved to reassign supervisors working on Fast and Furious and that officials at the DOJ allegedly tried to prevent ATF from notifying the oversight committees about the full nature of the management moves.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Issa Fires Spokesman In Wake Of Leaked Emails Scandal

House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA). Photo Courtesy - ABC News.(WASHINGTON) -- House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa fired his spokesman Kurt Bardella on Tuesday after Bardella leaked emails from reporters to a New York Times journalist working on a book on Washington.

On Monday evening, Politico reported that Bardella had supplied the New York Times' Mark Leibovich with emails that he had exchanged with reporters. Issa told Politico that he would investigate the matter. On Tuesday, he announced Bardella’s firing.

"While our review of allegations raised by Politico is not yet complete, it has become clear that the committee's Deputy Communications Director Kurt Bardella did share reporter e-mail correspondence with New York Times journalist Mark Leibovich for a book project," Issa said in a statement Tuesday. "Though limited, these actions were highly inappropriate, a basic breach of trust with the reporters it was his job to assist, and inconsistent with established communications office policies. As a consequence, his employment has been terminated."

Despite Issa's swift firing of Bardella, the scandal could prove damaging, since the congressman is the Republicans' chief watchdog, overseeing a committee that regularly handles high-profile Congressional investigations.

The book project stemmed from a Nov. 2010 request from Leibovich. Bardella's bosses granted the request, but sharing emails with reporters was never part of the plan, Issa noted.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Rep. Darrell Issa: Obama Not 'Personally Corrupt'

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- During the recent campaign, Republican Congressman Darrell Issa -- the incoming chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform committee -- told Rush Limbaugh that Obama is “one of the most corrupt Presidents in modern times.”

Monday, he took it back.

When Issa was pressed by ABC's George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America, the congressman said that he “tried never to make it a personal statement about the president…I am not saying that the President is personally corrupt.  But his administration has to change direction particularly after tax payer money.”

Top of Issa’s list -- figuring out what happened to the $700 billion in stimulus spending.

“That $700 billion is gone, we have to figure out, one, where it went and two, how to keep it from going away that way again.  The American people cannot afford that,” he said.

Issa also rejected any temporary extension of the Bush tax cuts for wealthy.

“If anything this is wrong minded. In some ways you should say, ‘Look, if you invest today we will let you get a better deal three, four, five years from now because that is how you create jobs,’” he said. “Hopefully we will come to a compromise that does allow people to make decisions beyond just this tax year.”

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio