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In Apparent Reversal, Issa Criticizes ATF Nominee

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said in a statement that the nomination of Jones, above, is a “slap in the face.”

Rep. Darrell Issa blasted President Barack Obama’s nomination of B. Todd Jones to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives as a “slap in the face” on Jan. 18 — less than a month after Issa appeared to endorse Jones for the job.

Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said in a statement Jan. 18 that Jones’ nomination is “saddled by a string of bad decisions related to the agency’s greatest recent failure,” a reference to the botched “Fast and Furious” operation in which the ATF lost track of thousands of guns it had sought to trace to Mexican drug cartels. Two of those guns later turned up at the murder scene of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry in Arizona.

Jones, who has been the agency’s acting director since August 2011, “was at the helm of ATF as many troubling problems from the fallout of Operation Fast and Furious festered,” said Issa, who has led the long-running congressional investigation into the operation. “His specific decisions on a number of Fast and Furious related issues raise concerns about his judgment and ability to lead the agency.”

“Because of the numerous ATF mistakes during his tenure as acting director pertaining to Fast and Furious,” the California Republican added, “his nomination is a slap in the face to the family of fallen Border Patrol agent Brian Terry, Mexican citizens whose murder has been linked to Fast and Furious weapons and ATF whistleblowers whom he failed to support.”

Issa’s statement, however, is a departure from comments he made in an interview with CQ Roll Call on Dec. 20, when he was asked about Obama’s call for a permanent director for the agency as part of a broader series of gun control efforts. The ATF has not had a permanent director in the six years that the position has required Senate confirmation. But the Dec. 14 Connecticut school shooting has refocused attention on the beleaguered federal agency charged with regulating and inspecting firearms dealers.

During the Dec. 20 interview, Issa said that questions about Fast and Furious are interwoven with the agency’s leadership, particularly after Obama claimed executive privilege to withhold documents related to the operation that Issa’s committee has been seeking. But Issa also indicated that Jones — who simultaneously works as a U.S. attorney in Minnesota — should devote more time to leading the agency.

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