Bush's ATF Director Rebuffs Right Wing's Fast And Furious Theory

Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

For months, the right-wing media has been desperately trying to tie the ATF's failed Fast and Furious operation to the upper reaches of the Justice Department and the White House, claiming that President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder must have known the flawed techniques used by the ATF despite their denials.

The right-wing media claimed that the stimulus funded the operation; that wasn't true. They claimed that Attorney General Holder "took credit" for Fast and Furious in a speech; that wasn't true either. They've even claimed, absent any evidence whatsoever, that the Obama administration deliberately set up the operation to arm Mexican drug cartels in order to justify increased gun control.

But in an appearance today on Fox News, Michael Sullivan, acting director of the ATF under President Bush, pushed back against such claims, saying that Operation Fast and Furious was "well within the rights of the director [of ATF] to approve or reject," and that he would be "surprised" to learn that "authorities outside the ATF" would have known the details of a specific firearms trafficking operation.

KELLY WRIGHT (ANCHOR): The President says he knew nothing about the operation, but the Justice Department has been slow in responding. Do you think this will lead all the way to the White House being involved?

SULLIVAN: I would be surprised. From our experience at ATF, firearms trafficking cases were fairly routine in terms of the nature and scope of the investigations. They didn't require authorities outside of ATF, and for the purpose of initiating it. Could folks have been briefed up, considering the violence in Mexico and the violence on the border, about the strategy, that's clearly possible. But the project itself was well within the rights of the director to essentially approve or to reject.

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