Justice retracts second statement to Congress on Fast and Furious

The Justice Department has retracted a second statement made to congressional investigators in the course of their probe into the failed Operation Fast and Furious.

Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced the retraction Wednesday morning just as a House committee meeting considering contempt proceedings against Attorney General Eric Holder got underway.

In a letter Monday, the department stated that Holder “inadvertently” said during a Senate committee hearing last week that his predecessor, then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey, had been briefed about a tactic known as gun-walking in a federal program known as Operation Wide Receiver -- which bared similarities to Fast and Furious.

The letter stated Holder was referring to Mukasey being briefed on another, similar operation  -- the Fidel Hernandez case.

“As we explained in a letter to chairman Issa … this briefing paper concerned the case of Fidel Hernandez, not Wide Receiver, as the attorney general inadvertently stated at the hearing,” wrote acting Assistant Attorney General Judith Appelbaum.

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Mukasey had been briefed on the other case. As Democrats said in their report in January, "on November 16, 2007, Attorney General Michael Mukasey (was sent) a memorandum in preparation for a meeting with Mexican Attorney General Medina Mora. The memo described the Hernandez case as 'the first ever attempt to have a controlled delivery of weapons being smuggled into Mexico by a major arms trafficker.' The briefing paper warned the Attorney General that 'the first attempts at this controlled delivery have not been successful.' Despite these failures, the memorandum sought to expand such operations in the future."

While drafting that memo for Mukasey, one ATF official wrote: 'I am going to ask DOJ to change 'first ever' ... there have (been) cases in the past where we have walked guns.'"

Grassley jumped on the Justice Department's latest correction Wednesday.

“This is the second time in nearly seven months that the department has gotten its facts wrong about gun walking,” Grassley said in a statement. “Attorney General Holder accused Attorney General Mukasey, without producing any evidence, of having been briefed on gun walking in Wide Receiver.

Grassley also said the Hernandez operation is fundamentally different from Wide Receiver and Fast and Furious because it involved cooperation with the Mexican government.

Lawmakers continued to discuss the issue Wednesday during the House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee meeting, called to address whether to vote to find Holder in contempt of Congress for failing to comply with subpoenas to provide more information about Fast and Furious.

This is the department’s second retraction over the past seven months.

The department several months ago retracted a Feb. 4, 2011, letter to Congress in which it inaccurately stated the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives -- which executed Fast and Furious -- “makes every effort to interdict weapons that have been purchased illegally and prevent their transportation to Mexico."

Grassley, who exposed problems with Fast and Furious, said Holder “in his eagerness to blame the previous administration … got his facts wrong.”