Senior Republican Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) called for the resignation of Justice Department Criminal Division head, Lanney Breuer, after Breuer denied knowing details of the controversial "Fast and Furious" operation. The Washington Post reports:
The “Fast and Furious” program was meant to track guns as they made their way south of the border to senior members of Mexican drug cartels after being bought by straw buyers. However, ATF agents rarely pursued the weapons after they were bought.
Grassley said Breuer hurt his own credibility by initially denying details of the program.
Breuer might be wise to consider Grassley's request in light of the debacle his Criminal Division made out of the failed Espionage Act prosecution against National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Thomas Drake.
When the Drake indictment was handed down, Breuer wildly overstated the case against Drake in a Justice Department press release:
Our national security demands that the sort of conduct alleged here – violating the government’s trust by illegally retaining and disclosing classified information – be prosecuted and prosecuted vigorously. . .
It turned out after the Drake prosecution collapsed under the weight of the truth in the face of adverse rulings in court and almost universally-negative media coverage, that none of the information Drake was accused of illegally retaining was classified. In fact, the alleged classification in the Drake case was so offensive to former G.W. Bush administration classification czar William J. Leonard, that Leonard filed a complaint seeking discipline for the NSA and Justice Department officials responsible for the improper classification.
Lest we think Breuer was simply ignorant of the mess his Division made of the Drake case, remember that Breuer circled the wagons around lead Drake prosecutor William Welch II even after Justice Department's glaring defeat, telling Washingtonian:
I’ve grown to very much rely on his judgment, his acumen, his intellect, and his sense of justice, which I think is terrific.
A formal federal court-ordered investigation into prosecutorial misconduct by Welch in the botched case against the late Alaska Senator Ted Stevens did nothing to deter Breuer's unconditional support. In Breuer's own words:
The fact there’s an allegation in and of itself is insufficient . . . In my mind, it would be absolutely unjust and crazy at this stage not to continue to let Bill Welch be the great prosecutor he is.
Breuer's assessment that it would be "crazy" to keep Welch out of the courtroom rings especially hollow considering that the investigator concluded that the Welch-led Stevens case was:
. . . permeated by the systematic concealment of significant exculpatory evidence.Even the conservative Washington Post editorial board recommended that the Justice Department refer the Stevens case lawyers to the bar association for "disbarment or other punishments." Yet, Breuer relies on Welch's "judgment," "acumen," "intellect," and "sense of justice."
Beyond the Drake case and blind support for Welch, Breuer appeared on 60 Minutes last Sunday scrambling to explain why the Justice Department has failed to prosecute a single official involved in the devastating home mortgage crisis. Also featured in the segment was Eileen Foster, a whistleblower and former high-ranking official at Countrywide Financial Corp., the home loans behemoth, and then Bank of America (BofA) after its purchase of Countrywide in July 2008. Foster is now a client of GAP.
GAP Senior Counsel Richard Condit described the importance of the case: "Eileen Foster's case and those that will follow provide penetrating insight into how the home mortgage crisis arose and was readily accepted by corporate cultures that cared more about short-term gain than long-term disaster."
One thing is clear, with Breuer at the helm supervising Espionage Act cases against so-called "leakers," who are more often than not whistleblowers, the Justice Department's Criminal Division has its priorities way out of whack.