31 July 2013
Yes, you read that right. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is planning to force a vote this week on Barack Obama’s nomination of B. Todd Jones to become the permanent director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE or ATF).
When an agreement was reached earlier this month to set aside the nuclear option that Republicans had threatened, Jones’ name was not among those who were not going to be filibustered.
Jones barely made it out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 11 in a 10-8 vote, with a strong objection from Charles Grassley (R-IA), the ranking member on the panel.
“I objected to holding his hearing last month and requested the hearing be postponed,” Grassley said. “Both then and now, there remains an open complaint of whistleblower retaliation against Mr. Jones before the Office of Special Counsel.”
Grassley took to the floor of the Senate on July 11 to openly oppose the nomination of Jones.
Main Justice reports, “Grassley was referring to an OSC investigation that Jones allegedly retaliated against a prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Minnesota. He and the whistleblower, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Paulsen, have entered into mediation and there is an ongoing dispute between Republics and Democrats on the Senate panel about whether this constitutes a satisfactory conclusion to the matter.”
A video released in July of 2012 in which Jones warned agents not to go outside the chain of command and provide anything that would damage the agency brought Jones under more scrutiny than he already was. Specifically, the message sounded like a threat against any agent that might seek to provide information regarding Operation Fast and Furious.
Grassley said at that time that “a leader of a major organization of any department, particularly law enforcement, would have the temerity to make those sort of comments…You can’t put up with agency heads like this having this attitude.”
Chairman of the House Oversight Committee Darrell Issa (R-CA) also said of Jones’ video, “This is a thinly veiled threat, telling people: ‘Don’t go to the press, don’t go to Congress, even if the chain of command isn’t working,’ which is really what happened in Fast and Furious. It wasn’t that ATF people weren’t screaming bloody murder. It’s they weren’t being listened to by Justice or by some of their leaders.”
Issa also condemned the nomination of Jones back in January of this year saying “his nomination is a slap in the face to the family of fallen Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, Mexican citizens whose murder has been linked to Fast and Furious weapons, and ATF whistleblowers whom he failed to support.”
The National Rifle Association seems to have given Jones a boost by indicating it will not take sides on the nomination. Yet, Politico reports that NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam declined to comment, except to say “Our position will be made clear before the vote.”
However, it isn’t just the lack of taking a stand against Jones by the likes of the NRA, but apparently Obama has rallied the Fraternal Order of Police and the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association to Jones’ aid. Apparently these organizations claim to be frustrated without a confirmed head of the ATF to bring accountability.
Gun Owners of America have taken a stand, and a strong one at that. In fact, they completely destroy the argument that confirmation of B. Todd Jones would bring accountability.
Communications Director for GOA Erich Pratt said, “B. Todd Jones has served as the acting director of the ATF for almost two years, and yet he’s done nothing to clean up corruption at ATF or to discipline any of the agents who helped orchestrate Operation Fast & Furious.”
Beginning in 2009, the ATF presided over the biggest operation to send guns illegally into Mexico, thus resulting in the deaths of hundreds of Mexican citizens and at least two U.S. federal agents.
“It’s against this backdrop that GOA feels openness and transparency are important qualities that any ATF Director must employ,” Pratt said. “And for this reason, GOA is concerned about the investigation that the Justice Department has launched into B. Todd Jones, the current ATF nominee by the White House. The DOJ investigation concerns the allegation that Jones retaliated against a subordinate whistleblower during his employment as a U.S. attorney in Minnesota.
“This is a problem given that the same sort of whistleblower retaliation has plagued the investigation of the Fast & Furious scandal over the past four years,” Pratt said.
Pratt also referenced the video I mentioned above in his comments.
“Thus, GOA feels that before considering Jones’ nomination, Congress should demand answers to questions about Jones’ prior conduct as a U.S. attorney and as acting director of ATF,” Pratt added. “Congress also needs to withhold his confirmation until it receives the tens of thousands of requested documents from the Justice Department, pursuant to the investigation into Fast & Furious.”
“For all these reasons, GOA strongly urges a NO vote on B. Todd Jones,” Pratt concluded.
Well at least we know there is someone willing to take a stand against what appears to be another corrupt leader over a federal agency with the blood of American federal agents and hundreds of Mexicans. Frankly, I’d like to see the ATF dismantled, but I’m not holding my breath.