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Pressure Builds on Lanny Breuer in Fast and Furious Fallout

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo

In a Feb. 1 letter, Weinstein told William Hoover, then the deputy director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives who has since been reassigned, that Breuer had encouraged him to intervene on the issue.

“As you know, Lanny is one of ATF’s biggest supporters — he has encouraged me to do whatever we can to help. Just wanted to pass that along,” Weinstein wrote.

Weinstein, like Breuer, was familiar with Wide Receiver, bringing the matter to Breuer’s attention in April 2010, according to documents released in October. Weinstein told colleagues then that ATF should be “embarrassed that they let this many guns walk” in Wide Receiver.

But when asked by Grassley whether ATF was allowing guns to walk in late January, Weinstein; Dennis Burke, then a U.S. attorney who has since resigned; and Hoover all pushed the Justice Department’s Office of Legislative Affairs to broadly deny the agency was.

According to the documents released last week, Burke was vehement on the subject, repeatedly urging Faith Burton — a Justice Department official who drafted an early version of the February letter — and other officials to strengthen the letter’s denial, which in some versions called allegations about gun walking “categorical[ly]” false.

“What is so offensive about this whole project is that Grassley’s staff, acting as willing stooges for the Gun Lobby, have attempted to distract from the incredible success in dismantling [southwest border] gun trafficking operations ... but, instead, lobbing this reckless despicable accusation that ATF is complicit in the murder of a fellow federal law enforcement officer,” he wrote in a Feb. 4 email.

“Well said Dennis. Thank you!” Hoover replied.

House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa suggested in an interview with Roll Call today that Burke knew guns were walking when he urged Justice Department officials to deny it.

“How did he think he could get away with saying what he said with what he did know?” the California Republican asked.

Congressional investigators will interview Burke on Dec. 13 for the second time. Burke was interviewed Aug. 18, but “he became ill and asked that we pause. And it’s been quite a pause,” Issa said.

“Let me assure you, in light of new documents, our questions will be expanded,” he added.

When asked for comment, Oversight and Government Reform ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said, “I don’t have enough information.”

Like Breuer, Weinstein and Burke, Hoover faces questions about what he knew and when.

Based on a phone conversation with Hoover, Burton took notes that read, “ATF doesn’t let guns walk,” as well as language similar to the letter’s “every effort” sentence.

In an interview with Congressional investigators July 21, Hoover struggled to explain how he could have been ignorant about Fast and Furious when he had intervened on Wide Receiver, according to a transcript of the interview obtained by Roll Call.

In 2007, Hoover came down hard on an ATF office in Phoenix where both Wide Receiver and Fast and Furious originated, expressing concern that guns had been allowed to walk in Wide Receiver.

“I’m pretty confident they weren’t real happy with me, because I was asking them to provide me a ton of information,” Hoover told investigators.

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