AP on DOJ Prosecutor Taking the Fifth in Fast and Furious: The Problem is With the 'Investigation'

Pete Yost's Friday evening story at the Associated Press, also known to yours truly as the Administration's Press, on the latest development in the Operation Fast and Furious scandal (that's my word, certainly not Yost's) has a "this is a boring story, don't read it" headline ("Prosecutor intends to take 5th if called in probe"), followed by an opening sentence which acts as if it has nothing to do with at least 300 Mexican citizens, a slain Border patrol agent, and thousands of disappearing guns.

Yost's opening sentence: "A federal prosecutor in Arizona intends to remain silent if called for questioning in a congressional probe of a problem-plagued gun smuggling investigation." Yep, Yost wants readers who don't get past the first paragraph to believe that it's only the "investigation" that's messed up beyond all recognition, not what happened in the Fast and Furious operation. Here's more from Pete's pathetic piece (bolds are mine throughout this post):


Patrick Cunningham's decision to invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in the investigation of Operation Fast and Furious was disclosed Friday after the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee subpoenaed him.

Republican committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said congressional investigators have information that Cunningham played a role in approving a controversial law enforcement tactic, resulting in federal agents losing track of weapons that later turned up at crime scenes in Mexico and the U.S.

In a letter to the committee Thursday, Cunningham's lawyer said his client wasn't even working at the U.S. Attorney's Office in Phoenix until 2010, months after Operation Fast and Furious began there.

According to Issa, senior Justice Department officials have told the committee that Cunningham relayed inaccurate and misleading information to department superiors insisting that no unacceptable tactics were used.

... The evidence shows that "my client is, in fact, innocent," (Cunningham attorney Tobin) Romero wrote.

... Cunningham, chief of the criminal division in the U.S. Attorney's Office in Phoenix, is resigning his government post effective next Friday to take a job in the private sector.

Note the following:

  • Yost really wants to make sure we know that Darrell Issa is a Republican, tagging him as one twice in one phrase.
  • The use of the term "law enforcement tactic." What laws are being "enforced" when you give out guns which you know you won't be able to track?
  • "Weapons" just sort of "turned up" at "crime scenes." Yost doesn't mention what was also "turned up" -- as noted above, hundreds of dead Mexican citizens and slain Border Patrol agent Brian Terry.
  • There's also no mention of who used the "weapons" at the crime scenes, i.e., Mexican drug cartel members, gangsters, and other criminals.
  • Regarding Cunningham's resignation, does this mean that he will conveniently end up being out of the reach of congressional investigators, and that he is invoking the Fifth to play stall-ball until he is? Yost doesn't say.

At PJ Media, Bob Owens provides a number of chronological facts Yost could have and should have used if his intention were to inform readers instead of to create an uninteresting story from which no one would learn anything. Owens also recounts how the administration's story has changed over time, something in which Yost and the AP also have demonstrated little if any interest:

Cunningham’s defense seeks to portray him as an innocent man caught in a conflict between the legislative and executive branches of government. He also seems to be the designated “fall guy” in the Obama administration’s recent tactical shift.

Previously, administration officials claimed they were unaware of the gunwalking plot and had no involvement in it. That excuse fell apart when evidence was presented that Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler, Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden, Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich, ATF Director Kenneth E. Melson, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Administrator Michele Leonhart, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Robert Mueller, U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota/Chair of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee/Acting ATF Director B. Todd Jones, and the top federal prosecutors in the Southwestern border states were all privy to information about Operation Fast and Furious.

The administration has since shifted to what can only be described as an “incompetence defense,” where they are asserting that rogue Phoenix operatives initiated the massive gunwalking plot without their supervisors in Washington, D.C., knowing anything about it — even as the “rogue” agents worked across directorships with DOJ, DHS, the IRS, and the required authorization of the State Department.

Attorney General Eric Holder’s defense seems to hinge upon the theory that he’s a detached boss more interested in pursuing heavily politicized racial justice schemes than enforcing the law or knowing what his direct reports are engaged in. One has to wonder about how serious the criminal crimes are that the attorney general is attempting to avoid by claiming gross incompetence.

It will be interesting to see if an immunity arrangement can be worked out for Mr. Cunningham so that he can share what he knows about Operation Fast and Furious.

With Cunningham's departure from the Department of Justice, that would seem less likely.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.