Issa Statement on Key Operation Fast and Furious Official’s Disciplinary Action by the Arizona State Bar

Published: Mar 31, 2014

Washington, D.C. – House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa issued the following statement responding to the Arizona State Bar’s reprimand of former Obama Administration political appointee Dennis Burke, who served as the U.S. Attorney for Arizona during Operation Fast and Furious.

“Dennis Burke’s disciplinary agreement with the Arizona State Bar makes clear his belief that Eric Holder’s Justice Department was more interested in politically protecting itself than giving Congress full information about what happened in Operation Fast and Furious.  Former ATF Director Kenneth Melson offered Congress a similar perspective.

“Burke’s acknowledgement of wrongdoing to an Arizona court underscores the importance of ongoing federal court litigation the House Oversight Committee is pursuing as a result of the bipartisan 2012 vote to hold U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt for refusing to produce subpoenaed documents.   These documents will shed light on the nature of the Department’s false denials of improper conduct and its response to Congress, including misconduct of which Dennis Burke was aware, that Attorney General Holder refused to discuss with Congress.”

“While Dennis Burke’s discipline before the State Bar is undoubtedly deserved, I’m deeply troubled to see him describe and have the State Bar apparently accept at face value, the idea that his effort to retaliate against a Fast and Furious whistleblower was intended as an act of ‘transparency.’  His actions to selectively leak a single document supporting a misleading narrative, though a common tactic in the Obama Administration, was a cowardly and self-serving action intended to smear a whistleblower.”

In August 2011, Dennis Burke, in a transcribed interview with Congressional investigators, made the following statement acknowledging personal fault in the reckless operation:

  • I take responsibility.  I’m not going to say mistakes were made.  I’m going to say we made mistakes.  . . . So when our office makes mistakes, I need to take responsibility, and this is a case, as reflected by the work of this investigation, it should not have been done the way it was done, and I want to take responsibility for that, and I’m not falling on a sword or trying to cover for anyone else.
  • Just as one example, and I assume we will get this in the questioning, in this case in particular, one of the defendants, Patino, ended up a straw purchaser of over 700 weapons.  That’s indefensible.  That is not something that I’m going to defend.  I think those are reflections of how this investigation could have been handled differently and how our prosecution could have been handled differently, and I use that as just one example, but there are others
  • I take fault also in the sense that, you know, at numerous times the SAC for ATF would indicate to me, would give me kind of updates on activity of gun trafficking from the Southwest to Mexico, either directly ‑‑ either in some kind of anecdote that he was passing information on to me or some reference in the anecdote or in the email to Fast and Furious, and in retrospect I should have spent more time on that.
  • And realizing, you know, the size of the case, whether we had enough people on it or, like, as I think we discussed in the last one, I think we discussed it at the last one or at least mentioned it, that on a wire case of this magnitude, if ‑‑ there are times when you can be taking people down during the case as opposed to waiting until the end.  So I think I learned some supervising skills that were lacking during that case.