Inspector General Michael Horowitz testified before the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee on Thursday and in doing so he pointed out that the White House’s refusal to release internal communications related to Operation Fast and Furious, along with a White House official refusing to be interviewed “made it impossible” for him to “pursue that aspect of the case.”
While the IG said that the interview and the internal communication documents were “a lead we wanted to follow,” he failed to get the very things that the Darrell Issa and his committee have been after for nearly 20 months.
During the hearing, Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) asked IG Horowitz,
“You noted also in your report that the White House refused to share internal communications with you during your investigation of Fast and Furious. We’ve noted a connection into the White House through Kevin O’Reilly at the National Security Council. Do you think the White House’s refusal to share these documents limited the scope of your investigation? Would this committee be well served by pursuing an investigation into that avenue?”
Horowitz replied, “Well, as we noted in the report, and as you know, congressman, we did not get internal communications from the White House and Mr. O’Reilly’s unwillingness to speak to us made it impossible for us to pursue that angle of the case and the question that had been raised.”
Rep. Farenthold countered, “So it would probably be worthwhile for us to pursue?”
“Well, certainly we have sought to pursue every lead we could. So, I can tell you, from our standpoint it was a lead we wanted to follow,” Horowitz answered.
Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) also had questions for the IG. “Kevin O’Reilly. Could you tell us a little bit about your effort to reach out to Kevin O’Reilly, a member of the White House national security team?”
“We reached out to his lawyer, requested an interview,” HOrowitz replied. “We have no basis to compel interviews from individuals who work outside the Department of Justice. He was not working in the Department of Justice so we had to ask for a voluntary interview and he denied ….”
“Would it surprise you he’s been in Afghanistan,” asked Issa. “We’ve been denied.”
The IG responded, “I was not aware of where he was.”
Issa corrected himself, “I’m sorry, it was Iraq [not Afghanistan].”
“I don’t recall knowing myself where he was, but we were told by his council that he would not (grant an interview),” said Horowitz.
So not only were vital internal communications unobtained by Michael Horowitz, but apparently he didn’t even know where O’Reilly was! How’s that for Inspector General? Maybe Horowitz would be better suited for work alongside Inspector Clouseau in France.
The internal communication would be needed to demonstrate who knew what and when. This is why they were not obtained. Issa and the committee began seeking an interview with O’Reilly over a year ago. According to CBS news, O’Reilly was reassigned from the National Security position he had to a position with the State Department in Iraq.
While O’Reilly’s attorney did say that he would be available for a phone interview, he also made that dependent upon the White House giving him the ok for and interview. White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler never gave permission.
“(N)one of these limited communications between Mr. O’Reilly and Mr. Newell revealed the existence of any of the inappropriate investigative tactics at issue in your inquiry, let alone any decision to allow guns to ‘walk,’” wrote Ruemmler in a letter to the offices of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa). Citing Executive Branch confidentiality interests, Ruemmler said, “There is an insufficient basis to support the request to interview Mr. O’Reilly.”
Republicans in Congress disagree.
In a letter to the White House, Issa and Grassley wrote, “O’Reilly’s testimony is necessary to allow us to begin to determine the extent of involvement – if any – of White House staff in Operation Fast and Furious. As such, we strongly urge you to reverse your position and facilitate an interview with O’Reilly without further delay.”
So, that means Holder and Obama are off the hook with the Inspector General, but not necessarily with Congress. Until the details can be brought to light concerning O’Reilly and the internal communications, the investigation into Fast and Furious is far from over.