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Grassley Office comments on Attorney General Holder's Response to Fast and Furious Controversy PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Tuesday, 11 October 2011 13:28
Following is a comment from Beth Levine, spokesperson for Ranking Member Grassley, in response to the letter sent to Senators Grassley and Leahy and Congressmen Issa, Smith, Cummings and Conyers from Attorney General Holder.

“The goals of Senator Grassley’s investigation, from the first time whistleblowers brought him the allegations of wrongdoing, has been to find out who approved a stupid program and to make sure it never happened again.  He believed he owed those answers to the family of slain Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, especially since the family wasn’t getting answers from the executive branch.  Instead of helping get to the bottom of the disastrous program, the Justice Department stonewalled Senator Grassley’s investigation and denied him access to documents and key personnel.  If the Attorney General had come clean with Congress from the beginning instead of having his staff send false and misleading responses to Senator Grassley’s letters (Jan. 27th letter and January 31st letter) , then the public discussion of these issues could have been more productive.

“Now, eight months after Senator Grassley personally raised the issue with him, Attorney General Holder has officially admitted that this case involved ‘weapons that should have been interdicted but were not.’  That’s quite a reversal from the Department’s initial denial, which claimed the whistleblower allegations were false and that ‘ATF makes every effort to interdict weapons that have been purchased illegally.’

“Documents provided last week make clear that (1) senior officials discussed whether it would be wise for the head of the Department’s Criminal Division to attend press events given the number of guns that were walked, (2) the Attorney General’s current chief of staff took notes regarding operational details during a presentation on Operation Fast and Furious in March 2010, and (3) the connection between the guns found at Agent Terry’s murder scene and Operation Fast and Furious was immediately briefed up to the Attorney General’s current chief of staff just two days after Agent Terry’s death.

“These documents raise as many questions as they answer about which senior Department officials knew what about Operation Fast and Furious.  In addition to these documents, getting at the truth also requires taking testimony from the key officials involved.  The Attorney General’s denials of any personal knowledge will have to be tested against all the evidence as the investigation continues, just as the Department’s initial denials were.”

 
Q&A: The World Food Prize PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Tuesday, 11 October 2011 13:04

Q:        How is The World Food Prize tied to Iowa?

A:        Two Iowans were behind creation of the World Food Prize, the international award recognizing individuals who improve the quality, quantity and availability of food in the world.  Dr. Norman Borlaug (1914-2009) -- an agronomist, humanitarian, Nobel laureate (the only recipient to receive this honor for working in agriculture), and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal -- grew up in rural Cresco.  He was the father of what’s called the Green Revolution when, from the 1940s to the 1970s, research, development and new technologies increased agricultural production around the world.  Dr. Borlaug was involved with the development of high-yielding varieties of cereal grains, expansion of irrigation infrastructure, modernization of management techniques, and the distribution of hybridized seeds, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides to farmers.  Dramatically increasing crop yields saved hundreds of millions of people from starvation.  Dr. Borlaug’s leadership and tireless work gave the world’s poorest people access to food.  It’s said that he saved more lives than any other person in history.  Dr. Borlaug envisioned a prize as a means of recognizing and inspiring achievements in fighting world hunger.  His vision was realized in 1986, when The World Food Prize was created.  In 1990, the first sponsor of the prize withdrew, and Iowa businessman and leading philanthropist John Ruan (1914-2010) stepped forward to endow the prize, making it possible to continue Dr. Borlaug’s vision.  The World Food Prize organization is located in Des Moines.

 

Q:        Who is considered for the prize?

A:        Contributions by individuals in any field that’s involved in the world food supply – including food and agricultural science and technology, manufacturing, marketing, nutrition, economics, poverty alleviation, political leadership, and the social sciences – are recognized by The World Food Prize.  The prize values a nutritious and sustainable food supply for all people.  Outstanding individuals from Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Cuba, Denmark, Ethiopia, India, Mexico, Sierra Leone, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United Nations, and the United States have received the prize.  It’s most fitting that this prestigious award is given each fall in Iowa.  Iowa farmers are blessed with some of the best soil in the world, and our state’s productivity and agricultural abundance have made significant contributions to global food security, humanitarian relief, economic growth, job creation and national security.

 

Friday, October 7, 2011

 
Weekly Video Address: Fast and Furious PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Sen Chuck Grassley   
Tuesday, 11 October 2011 12:57

Click here for audio.

Here is the text of the address:

Last weekend, my office received a new set of documents from the Justice Department related to my investigation of the ill-advised strategy known as Fast and Furious.

The documents were revealing.  Included were several memorandums to Attorney General Holder that reveal the Attorney General was briefed at least five times beginning in July 2010 in written memos about Fast and Furious.

What is concerning to many of us is the fact that the Attorney General told the House Judiciary Committee in May 2011 that he had just learned of Fast and Furious a few weeks before.  Yet, on January 31, in a previously scheduled meeting, I personally handed him two letters about Fast and Furious.

Now, to find out he knew some pretty detailed information about the operation back in the summer of 2010, is troubling.

The memo specifically says that the straw buyers, including the target of the investigation, were “responsible for the purchase of 1500 firearms that were then supplied to Mexican drug trafficking cartels.”  It seems the logical question for the Attorney General, and his staff, after reading the memo would be “why haven’t we stopped them?”

In addition, the documents we received show several other people very high up in the Justice Department knew a great deal of information about Fast and Furious, including that guns were being walked.

Congressman Issa, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee who I’m working with, and I will continue working to get to the bottom of this.  We want to make sure a stupid program like this never happens again.

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Attorney General Holder Received at Least Five Memos on Fast and Furious PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Tuesday, 11 October 2011 11:39
WASHINGTON – October 7, 2011 - Senator Chuck Grassley and Congressman Darrell Issa today said that Attorney General Eric Holder received at least five weekly memos beginning in July 2010, including four weeks in a row, describing the ill-advised strategy known as Operation Fast and Furious.  The memos were to Holder from Michael Walther, the director of the National Drug Intelligence Center.

The Attorney General told Issa during a House Judiciary Committee in May 2011 that he had just learned of Fast and Furious a few weeks before.  Yet, on January 31, in a previously scheduled meeting, Grassley personally handed him two letters about Fast and Furious. Grassley and Issa said they find it very troubling that Holder actually knew of Operation Fast and Furious much earlier, and in greater detail than he ever let on.

The memos specifically said that the straw buyers were “responsible for the purchase of 1500 firearms that were then supplied to Mexican drug trafficking cartels.”

“With the fairly detailed information that the Attorney General read, it seems the logical question for the Attorney General after reading in the memo would be “why haven’t we stopped them?” Grassley said.  “And if he didn’t ask the questions, why didn’t he or somebody in his office?”

“Attorney General Holder has failed to give Congress and the American people an honest account of what he and other senior Justice Department officials knew about gunwalking and Operation Fast and Furious. The lack of candor and honesty from our nation’s chief law enforcement officials in this matter is deeply disturbing,” Issa said.

Grassley and Issa have been leading the investigation into who approved the strategy to allow guns to be purchased by known straw buyers who then often transferred the firearms to Mexican Drug Cartels.

The memos can be found here.

 
DoJ Conference Expenditures Nearly Double in last two years, Trafficking Bill -- Grassley Judiciary Executive Committee Statement PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Tuesday, 11 October 2011 11:35

Prepared Statement of Ranking Member Chuck Grassley

Senate Committee on the Judiciary

Executive Business Meeting

Thursday, October 6, 2011

 

Mr. Chairman,

With regard to the judicial nominations, we are prepared to vote on the following nominations today:  Wallach, Christensen, Bencivengo, Groh, and Brodie.   We have a request on our side for a roll call vote on Wallach.  There are requests on our side to hold over the following nominees, who are appearing for the first time on our agenda:  Jordán, Gerrard, Phillips, Rice, Nuffer, Frank, Pane, and Webb.

 

We have a number of bills on the agenda today that appear for the first time.  We have a request on our side to hold over all of them for consideration next week.

On the legislation, I would like to say a few words about S.1301, the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act.  We held a hearing on this legislation just three weeks ago that focused on the administration of programs designed to help victims of trafficking.

It is my hope that that the administration will get back to us with the questions we submitted for the record so we can consider those as part of our discussion on the bill next week.

I am pleased to report that my staff and the Chairman’s have been working together for the last few weeks to find common ground on this issue.  However, there are changes needed in the draft to ensure that we recognize the changing times and the current fiscal crisis.  We need to ensure that our resources are carefully spent and are only provided to programs that are working.

At the hearing, I raised my concerns with the Department of Justice about a number of audits that have been conducted showing shocking examples of waste and abuse of grants.  I highlighted how the Inspector General had pulled nine specific grants and reviewed them for compliance.  All nine of those audits found hundreds of thousands of dollars in questioned costs, unauthorized expenditures, failed matching requirements, questioned salaries and fringe benefits, and many other problems.

I raised these audits with the witness from the Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs who admitted that one audit that questioned over $1.3 million of a $1.7 million grant, showed that the grant was a failure.  This is unacceptable and the American taxpayers deserve better.  These audits demand our attention and that is why we “reauthorize” these programs—to make sure the money isn’t being wasted.

Yet, here, we have audits showing that money is being wasted.  So we have the opportunity and responsibility to fix this.  Our efforts to reauthorize this legislation need to fix this problem and ensure that grantees that commit violations like this never see another federal dollar.  We need transparency, accountability, and performance from grantees that are trusted with federal dollars.  Absent any of these three things, they should not receive any money.

Further, we need to hold accountable the Justice Department, State Department, and other federal agencies that award trafficking grants under the TVPA.  These bureaucracies often turn a blind eye to the waste, abuse, and mismanagement of these grants, leading up to these audits.

Too often, the agencies simply fail to conduct the oversight required of the grants and then plead ignorant when the Inspector General finds problems.  This too has to stop.  Both the grant managers and the grantees should be held accountable.  It starts at the top with the head of the agency and we need those in power at these agencies to question spending, not just push taxpayer dollars out the door.

Unfortunately, as the recent report on conference expenditures at the Justice Department points out, it’s clear this Justice Department doesn’t understand that.  We all heard about the infamous $16 muffins and all the hay the hotels and the Justice Department have raised to refute the finding.  Well, what they can’t hide from is the fact that since President Obama took office, conference spending at the Justice Department has nearly doubled from the Bush administration.

In fiscal 2008, the Justice Department spent $47.8 million on conferences.  In President Obama’s first year, Fiscal Year 2009, that increased to $73.3 million.  Last year, it increased further to $91.5 million.  That is not fiscal responsibility, that’s excess and waste.

The point is, we are well past the time when we can reauthorize programs without giving them the scrutiny needed.  We have a Justice Department that is addicted to spending without control and we need to rein that in.  We need to use this opportunity to ensure that hard earned taxpayer dollars are going to the people we are trying to help, here that’s the victims of trafficking.  If we continue to allow grants to be mismanaged, a victim who could have been helped goes without.

I hope the Chairman and I can continue our work and reach an agreement on this bill for next week.  Thank you.

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