A former U.S. Attorney who resigned in the wake of ATF’s botched operation Fast and Furious called Sen. Chuck Grassley’s staff “willing stooges for the Gun Lobby” when the Senator started investigating the issue in early 2011, according to emails DOJ sent up to congressional investigators and released to news organizations, including TPM, on Friday afternoon.
“I am so personally outraged by Senator Grassley’s falsehoods,” former Arizona U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke wrote in an email regarding the allegation that a weapon connected to the ATF operation was found at the murder scene of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. “It is one of the lowest acts I have ever seen in politics.”
“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] guntrafficking operation (while also changing an acceptable culture of straw purchasing) by not uttering one word of rightful parse and thanks to ATF — but, instead, lobbing this reckless despicable accusation that ATF is complicit in the murder of a fellow federal law enforcement officer,” Burke said in a Feb. 2, 2011 email sent to other Justice Department and ATF officials.
“No commentary by Grassley on the lax laws, nor greedy gun shop owners, nor careless straw purchasers, and not boo about the evil gun traffickers for the Cartels. Nope. Just demonize ATF w/ a strategically-timed repulsive letter e-mailed to the entire press world before we ever saw it,” Burke wrote.
Discussing the Department’s response to a letter that Grassley sent to the agency concerning the allegation that a gun from the ATF was used to kill Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, Burke continued: “I sat there during the press conference on this case wondering how the Gun Lobby would counter the American public’ (sic) exposure to the legality of people buying 20-30 AK-47s during one purchase [with] no reporting requirement. Well, they figured out [their] counter. Never crossed my [mind] they would stoop this low — and now we are playing defense [with] this low-tone response.”
Burke had written in earlier emails that Grassley’s “assertions regarding the Arizona investigation and the weapons recovered at the BP Agent Terry murder scene are based on categorial falsehoods.” He said he was worried that ATF “will take 8 months to answer this when they should be refuting its underlying accusations right now.”
Late Update: In a statement, Grassley’s office said the “disparaging emails from Mr. Burke about Senator Grassley and his staff are disappointing from somebody who should have known much more about the gunwalking.” It continued:
Fortunately, it appears that Mr. Burke now realizes that the Senator and his staff have the best of intentions and work very hard to understand the facts of any investigation, including this one that involved a disastrous program where our own government illegally allowed guns to be walked and led to the murder of a U.S. Border Patrol agent. After learning yesterday from the Justice Department that the emails would be released, Mr. Burke personally apologized to Senator Grassley’s staff for the tone and the content of the emails.”
Late, late update: More information on the documents here.