House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) has threatened to subpoena a member of the White House National Security Staff who was suddenly transferred out of the White House to Iraq in July 2011. Kevin O’Reilly had been communicating with an ATF agent while Fast and Furious was going on and the committee wanted his testimony, which the White House would not allow.
The Inspector General Michael Horowitz was unable to get testimony or permission from the White House to interview O’Reilly as well.
Issa and Senator Charles E. Grassley sent a letter to O’Reilly’s attorney on Thursday evening warning that they would issue a subpoena for O’Reilly if he did not agree to testify.
“We have been trying to arrange to speak with your client, Kevin O’Reilly, for nearly a year now,” Issa and Grassley wrote. “Earlier this year, you agreed to make O’Reilly available for an interview if the White House authorized his participation. The White House, where O’Reilly worked during the pendency of Operation Fast and Furious, refused to make him available, citing ‘an insufficient basis to support the request.”
“If O’Reilly chooses to continue to make himself unavailable, Chairman Issa will have no further alternative but to use compulsory process to require his testimony before the committee,” they wrote.
Both Issa and Grassley wrote exactly what Horowitz confirmed and that was that it would be impossible to determine the White House’s role in Fast and Furious without O’Reilly’s testimony.
“By not interviewing O’Reilly, the OIG could not fully determine the role the White House played in Fast and Furious,” the letter continued. “Given that O’Reilly was the link connecting the White House to the scandal, and that the President subsequently asserted executive privilege over documents pertaining to Fast and Furious, it is imperative that the American people get to the bottom of O’Reilly’s involvement in Fast and Furious.
The letter says that in order to do this, Congress must be able to speak with O’Reilly directly.
ATF Special Agent in Charge William Newell, who was in charge of the operation in Arizona testified prior to O’Reilly being sent to Iraq “He has been a friend of mine for a long time, and he asked me for information.”
“Not that I shouldn’t have been talking to him,” Newell testified. “He is a friend of mine. He asked for information and I provided it to him.”
The letter from Issa and Grassley continues, “Additionally, we recently learned that, last July, O’Reilly was suddenly transferred out of the country to serve in Baghdad as the head of the Police Development Program, a multi-year, multi-billion dollar program designed to train Iraqi security forces.”
“O’Reilly’s sudden transfer to Baghdad occurred just days after the aforementioned e-mails with William Newell were produced to the Committee and Newell testified about them before Congress,” they wrote. “Additionally, we have learned that O’Reilly took the place of a previously selected individual—and individual who had gone through a competitive application process and thorough vetting process, had the necessary qualifications, and whose spouse was already in Baghdad in anticipation of the individual’s arrival—to serve as the head of the Police Development Program.”
The State Department says that O’Reilly is now no longer assigned to Iraq, but is in between assignments, though they are not confirming what that assignment is, according to CNS News.
O’Reilly apparently was willing to talk to congressional investigators over the phone while he was working in Iraq, according to a March 28, 2012 letter from Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House oversight committee, and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler responded in an April 5, 2012 letter that “there is an insufficient basis to support the request to interview Mr. O’Reilly.”
When the IG was called before the House Oversight Committee to speak, Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) asked him, “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 believe the White House’s refusal to share these documents limited the scope of your investigation? And would this committee be well served by pursuing an investigation in that avenue?”
“Well, as we noted in the report,” Horowitz said, “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.”
Farenthold followed, “So it would probably be worthwhile for us to pursue.” Horowitz said, “Well, certainly we have sought to pursue every lead we could. So I can just tell you, from our standpoint, it was a lead we wanted to follow.”
So it appears that the House Oversight Committee will indeed follow up with Kevin O’Reilly with or without the White House’s approval. At least that is what they are determined to do at this point.