Paul Sakuma/AP Photo
Asked about the Fast and Furious program at the Univision forum on Thursday, President Obama falsely claimed that the program began under President George W. Bush.
“I think it’s important for us to understand that the Fast and Furious program was a field-initiated program begun under the previous administration,” the president said. “When Eric Holder found out about it, he discontinued it. We assigned a inspector general to do a thorough report that was just issued, confirming that in fact Eric Holder did not know about this, that he took prompt action and the people who did initiate this were held accountable.”
In actuality, the Fast and Furious program was started in October 2009, nine months into the Obama presidency.
Previous programs involving ATF agents allowing guns to “walk” across the border so as to trace them were run during the Bush presidency, but not this particular “field-initiated program.”
Asked for comment, White House Spokesman Eric Schultz said, “The President was referring to the flawed tactic of gun-walking, which despite Republicans efforts to politicize this issue, began under the previous Administration and it was our Attorney General who ended it. In fact, this week’s IG report affirms this and if Republicans still have any legitimate questions about Fast and Furious, the 450-page report answers them. In light of this thorough report and Congress’s 16 month-long investigation, Republicans have no excuse to keep wasting time and taxpayer resources on politically-motivated, election-year attacks.”
As for President Obama’s discussion about the Justice Department Inspector General’s report on Fast and Furious, it’s true the Inspector General “concluded that although Attorney General Holder was notified immediately of (Border Patrol) Agent (Brian) Terry’s shooting and death, he was not told about the connection between the firearms found at the scene of the shooting and Operation Fast and Furious.
We determined that Attorney General Holder did not learn of that fact until sometime in 2011, after he received Sen. Grassley’s January 27 letter. Senior Department officials were aware of this significant and troubling information by December 17, 2010, but did not believe the information was sufficiently important to alert the Attorney General about it or to make any further inquiry regarding this development.”
But this was not entirely an exoneration of the Justice Department run by Mr. Holder. “We found it troubling that a case of this magnitude, and one that affected Mexico so significantly was not directly briefed to the Attorney General,” the report stated.
In addition to specific disciplinary measures, the Inspector General “made six recommendations designed to increase the Department’s involvement in and oversight of ATF operations, improve coordination among the Department’s law enforcement components, and enhance the Department’s wiretap application review and authorization process. The OIG intends to closely monitor the department’s progress in implementing these recommendations.”