Grassley: FBI obstructing Fast and Furious, other investigations
Charles Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is accusing the FBI of obstructing several investigations involving administration wrongdoing by not cooperating with the Justice Department inspector general.
So what else is new? This administration has made it standard practice to stonewall IG investigations, not to mention harassing, denigrating, and smearing several IGs over the years while failing to appoint candidates to fill key vacant IG positions.
The White House still hasn't named permanent Inspectors General for 10 different agencies. So the 16 members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee penned a letter to President Barack Obama and those 10 agencies urging them to fill the spots and add stability to the watchdog process.
"The overall message is we want to work with this President and make sure that we get independent and permanent Inspectors General into those spots," said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman of the committee on In Depth with Francis Rose.
As it stands, there are seven vacancies among presidentially-appointed Inspectors General, and three vacancies among agency-appointed positions. Two of those are currently pending congressional confirmation.
The agencies without a permanent Inspector General are:
- Department of the Interior
- Agency for International Development
- Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
- Veterans Affairs Department
- General Services Administration
- Export-Import Bank of the United States
- Central Intelligence Agency
- Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation
- Denali Commission
- Federal Trade Commission
Grassly specifically mentioned the Fast and Furious investigation as an example of FBI foot-dragging in cooperating with the IG.
“One of the tools we have created to help the government identify and correct its mistakes is being obstructed. I refer to the vital work of Inspectors General,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican, in a speech on the Senate floor Monday. “We must stay vigilant and insist that all government agencies, including theFBI, work with Inspectors General — not against them.”
In investigating the Fast and the Furious case, the Justice Department’s IG was told by the FBI that grand jury testimony could not be shared with the Inspector General. According to Mr. Grassley, the FBI claimed it had the right to refuse to provide the IG information in over a dozen other categories as well.
“Remember – the law says the Inspector General shall have access to all records, documents and other materials they deem necessary to conduct their investigations,” said Mr. Grassley, “And yet the FBI says its attorneys will review material first and decide what it would and would not release to the Inspector General.”
The FBI claimed the inspector general needed to get approval from the attorney general or the deputy attorney general to provide information to the Inspector General, an action Mr. Grassley called “exactly upside down!”
“Under the law, an inspector general must be independent. Agencies cannot be trusted to investigate themselves,” said Mr. Grassley. “If an inspector general had to ask for permission from senior leadership, he would not be truly independent.”
Other agencies who have avoided inspector general inquires through legal loopholes are the Environmental Protection Agency and the Peace Corps, Mr. Grassley said. Last year, a group of 47 inspector generals wrote a letter to Congress warning of these problems across the government.
By hindering IG investigations, the FBI hinders congressional oversight. Congress depends on IGs to do a lot of the legwork on prying open the dark corners of government to reveal wrongdoing. Preventing them from doing their jobs is illegal, but as we can see, there are ways to "run out the clock" on an investigation until all the political appointees are out of office.
Expecting Eric Holder or apparent attorney general designate Loretta Lynch to force FBI cooperation in any of these investigations is a pipe dream. Chances are growing greater that whatever criminal activity occurred in Fast and Furious and other scandals, no one will be prosecuted for it.