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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Napolitano Grilled Over ‘Fast and Furious,’ Likens Hearing to Cross Examination

UPDATE: 10/27/11
Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) questions Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on the Constitutionality of the WH and the DOJ devising the prosecutorial discretion memo in June that restricts prosecution of illegal aliens in the country. 

Janet Napolitan defends White House role in deporation reprieves
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is defending the involvement of President Barack Obama's White House in crafting priorities for deportation of illegal aliens and for laying out criteria for which illegal immigrants may win a reprieve from deportation in an upcoming review of pending cases.

"Because immigration involves two major agencies: DHS and DOJ, it is entirely appropriate and, yes, there was coordination with the White House," Napolitano told Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) during a House Judicary Committee oversight hearing Wednesday.

It's unusual for the White House to play a role in setting priorities for law enforcement. White House officials have indicated in other contexts that it wouldn't be appropriate for officials there to urge the Justice Department to harmonize criminal law enforcement with broader administration goals, like export promotion.

The immigration enforcement priorities laid out in a June memo and advanced in an August announcement of a review of all pending deportation cases don't affect criminal prosecutions, but pertain to civil enforcement of immigration law. The so-called "prosecutorial discretion" memo and policy has been closely watched by Latino and immigrants' rights groups, whom Obama and his aides have been trying to court politically in advance of the 2012 election.

The involvement of the White House in devising the prosecutorial discretion memo was discussed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement Deputy Director Kumar Kibble at a House Homeland Security subcommittee hearing on Oct. 4 and by ICE Director John Morton at a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on Oct. 14.

"If your question is — was the White House ... involved in the formulation of this memorandum, the answer is yes," Morton told Poe at that session.
Morton said the White House's role in the discussion was coordinated by Cecilia Munoz, who heads up the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs.
Source: Politico

Oversight Watchdog Trey Gowdy (R-SC) presses Obama Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on her agency's involvement - and her role in - Operation Fast and Furious.

Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) presses Obama Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on her agency's involvement - and her role in - Operation Fast and Furious.

Oversight Watchdog Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) presses Obama Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on her agency's involvement - and her role in - Operation Fast and Furious.

Napolitano Grilled Over ‘Fast and Furious,’ Likens Hearing to Cross Examination

House Republicans on Wednesday turned their sharp questioning over "Operation Fast and Furious" toward Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who acknowledged her agents were twice told to "stand down" in deference to what she called a "very troublesome" operation.

Napolitano, at one point likening the questioning to a cross-examination, said repeatedly she only learned of "Fast and Furious" after Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed in December. She emphasized the operation, conceived and run by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, "was an ATF operation," under the auspices of the Justice Department, not her department.

Still, during a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee, outspoken Republicans wanted to know why she didn't press for more answers in the wake of Terry's death, and they called on her to meet more regularly with her Justice Department counterparts, suggesting more frequent discussions could help prevent incidents like Terry's murder.

Napolitano said she has never spoken with Attorney General Eric Holder about "Fast and Furious," a revelation Republicans strongly criticized.

"There needs to be better communication, so somebody can say, 'Whoa! This is a crazy idea, you're giving guns to drug smugglers that are going to come back and be used?" said Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.

Holder, however, has said he was not aware of "Fast and Furious" -- or at least its controversial details -- until after concerns were raised publicly. And, in a letter to lawmakers three weeks ago, he said that while "some senior officials" within the department knew of an operation called "Fast and Furious," they "were not advised of the unacceptable operational tactics being used in it."

Nevertheless, on Wednesday, Napolitano said one reason she hasn't spoken to Holder directly about "Fast and Furious" is that the Justice Department's inspector general is currently engaged in an investigation into the matter, and she said she wouldn't know details about "Fast and Furious" because it "was an ATF operation."

Napolitano warned lawmakers not to "rush to judgment here," but she said there "will be lessons learned from this, and there very well may be changes in the field as a result of this."

Launched in late 2009, "Fast and Furious" hoped to target major gun-runners in Arizona by following gun purchasers to senior-level officials within Mexican cartels. But high-powered weapons tied to the investigation ended up at crime scenes in Mexico and the United States, including that of Terry's murder.

On Wednesday, Republicans tried to use their questioning of Napolitano, a former U.S attorney in Arizona, to bolster allegations that Justice Department officials knew details of "Fast and Furious" early on. Republicans have noted that, starting in at least March 2010, officials within the Justice Department's criminal division approved wiretaps as part of the investigation.

During a lengthy back-and-forth, Napolitano acknowledged that wiretap applications are approved by the Justice Department and include a "summary" or "narrative" of the case. But when Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., tried to suggest it was "disingenuous" for the Justice Department to say officials didn't know about "Fast and Furious," Napolitano balked.

"Someone at the Department of Justice had to know about 'Fast and Furious' for the [wiretaps] to ever have been approved, correct?" Gowdy asked Napolitano. "If there were [wiretaps] approved in 'Fast and Furious' -- and there were -- the Department of Justice would had to have known about it, correct?"

Napolitano wouldn't comment, telling lawmakers she would "leave that for your own investigation."

Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is leading a congressional investigation into "Fast and Furious." Republicans and Democrats have increasingly become divided over the direction of the probe.


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