ATF nominee criticized over ‘Fast and Furious’ response

B. Todd Jones has been acting director of ATF. B. Todd Jones has been acting director of ATF. Jim Mone/AP file photo

Two days after President Obama released his package of reforms aimed at curbing gun violence, the top Republican on the House oversight panel has blasted one of the proposed steps: the nomination of B. Todd Jones to direct the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., whose Oversight and Government Reform Committee spent more than a year probing the Justice Department’s handling of a botched weapons-tracking scheme called “Fast and Furious,” issued a statement saying the nomination of Jones, who is currently acting director of the agency, causes “deep concern” for six reasons.

“Acting Director Jones was at the helm of ATF as many troubling problems from the fallout of Operation Fast and Furious festered,” Issa said. “His specific decisions on a number of Fast and Furious related issues raise concerns about his judgment and ability to lead the agency. While I continue to believe that ATF needs to have a Senate-confirmed director, President Obama has a responsibility to find a nominee who can win confirmation and is not saddled by a string of bad decisions related to the agency’s greatest recent failure.”

Issa also called the Jones nomination “a slap in the face to the family of fallen Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, Mexican citizens whose murder has been linked to Fast and Furious weapons, and ATF whistleblowers whom he failed to support.”

His specific objections to Jones include:

  • a failure to fire “several key individuals identified by both Congress and the inspector general as having played prominent roles in using reckless tactics;
  • a failure to commend or publicly defend whistleblowers who exposed Fast and Furious;
  • expressing “hostility” toward whistleblowers by instructing AFT employees “not to complain about problems outside their chain of command.”
  • affording a special waiver to an ATF employee involved with Fast and Furious to accept a “lucrative job at J.P. Morgan;”
  • an “unwillingness to engage Congress,” by discussing the gun-tracking operation with congressional investigators, in contrast to his predecessor Ken Melson; and
  • a failure to apply lessons and offer reform plans in the aftermath of exposure of the controversial operation.

Jones’ nomination is also drawing skeptism from Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, long critical of the ATF and Obama’s handling of the agency: “The last time the president nominated a director for the ATF, we asked for information in June 2011 regarding the president’s nominee, Andrew Traver, but the administration refused to respond,” he said. “Neither the White House nor the majority attempted to move the nomination forward. They pushed for numerous nominees during the last Congress, but the ATF director wasn’t one of them.” Jones “is a familiar face to the committee, but his ties to the Fast and Furious scandal raise serious questions,” Grassley said. “In any case, he’ll receive a thorough and fair vetting by the Judiciary Committee.”

Obama, in releasing his set of gun-related executive orders and crackdown proposals on Tuesday, said, “Congress needs to help, rather than hinder, law enforcement as it does its job. We should get tougher on people who buy guns with the express purpose of turning around and selling them to criminals. And we should severely punish anybody who helps them do this. Since Congress hasn’t confirmed a director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in six years, they should confirm Todd Jones.”

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