(Newsroom America) -- The Justice Department's inspector general told a House panel Thursday that the White House "made it impossible" to pursue an leads in the "Fast and Furious" gun-walking case.
A report by the IG's office, referenced by Republican members of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, said that the White House refused to share internal information regarding the case, and that key figures in the investigation refused to be interviewed, CNSNews.com reported Friday.
One of them was Kevin O'Reilly, identified in the IG's report as "an official with the White House National Security Staff," whom the IG's office wanted to interview regarding communications he had in 2010 with Special Agent in Charge William Newell that included information about Operation Fast and Furious," the IG report said. However, "O’Reilly declined through his personal counsel our request for an interview."
His refusal, said Michael Horowitz, the Justice Department IG, "made it impossible" to "pursue that aspect of the case."
"You noted also in your report that the White House refused to share internal communications with you during your investigation of Fast and Furious," said Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas. "We've noted a connection into the White House through Kevin O'Reilly at the National Security Council. Do you think the White House’s refusal to share these documents limited the scope of your investigation? Would this committee be well served by pursuing an investigation into that avenue?"
"Well, as we noted in the report, 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," Horowitz said.
"So it would probably be worthwhile for us to pursue?" Farenthold pressed.
"Well, certainly we have sought to pursue every lead we could. So, I can tell you, from our standpoint it was a lead we wanted to follow," the IG responded.
The case has been the focus of congressional and Justice Department inquiries following reports that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives allowed guns purchased in the U.S. by straw buyers to "walk" across the border into the hands of Mexican drug cartels.
Interest in the case grew following the murder of U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agent Brian Terry. According to the IG's report, Terry was killed by one of three AK-47 rifles bought from a U.S. gun dealer in Phoenix by one of the straw purchasers, Jaime Avila, who was subsequently arrested following the murder.
"Several weeks later, on January 19, 2011, the U.S. Attorney’s Office indicted 20 Operation Fast and Furious straw purchasers and gun traffickers. As of August 1, 2012, 14 defendants, including Avila, have entered guilty pleas to one or more counts of the indictment," the report said.
Republicans have criticized the administration over the operation, accusing the White House and Attorney General Eric Holder of covering up evidence related to the operation itself and to the death of Terry.
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