A few weeks ago, I wrote about the ATF's "Fast and Furious" or "Gunwalker" scandal, which appears to reach the highest levels of the Justice Department. Read the whole magazine article here, but the short version is that the Justice Department knowingly allowed thousands of weapons to fall in the hands of criminals in Mexico that were then used to kill U.S. law enforcement agents.
Well, today a bombshell dropped. It's not just the Justice Department that looks culpable -- it looks like the White House was briefed on the operation as well:
At a lengthy hearing on ATF's controversial gunwalking operation today, a key ATF manager told Congress he discussed the case with a White House National Security staffer as early as September 2010. The communications were between ATF Special Agent in Charge of the Phoenix office, Bill Newell, and White House National Security Director for North America Kevin O'Reilly. Newell said the two are longtime friends. The content of what Newell shared with O'Reilly is unclear and wasn't fully explored at the hearing.
For various reasons relating to the White House's gun policies and relations with Mexico, many have speculated that the White House was involved. (This involves a lot of political posturing on guns by the White House, which I explain in detail in my piece mentioned above.) But this is the first concrete proof that the White House knew what was going on.
If the White House knew what was going on, this is a very, very serious charge. Did the White House knowingly let guns fall into the hands of criminals to make the case for more liberal gun laws? I imagine GOP congressional investigators will proceed cautiously here, but Fast and Furious so far has been a slow-burning, if deadly serious scandal. But a deep exploration of the level of White House involvement now seems warranted. The scandal may have just become huge.