Acting ATF Director Kenneth Melson has gone “off the reservation”. Monday, he testified to Rep. Issa’s committee earlier than planned, and with his personal attorney rather than the ATF and DOJ attorneys as originally planned. There are some implications that the DOJ didn’t tell him the committee had offered this as a possibility, in an effort to hamper the investigation. From Rep. Issa and Sen. Grassley’s letter to the DOJ:
He appeared with his personal counsel, Richard Cullen of McGuire Woods LLP. His interview had originally been scheduled through the Justice Department to occur on July 13 in the presence of DOJ and ATF counsel. As you know, however, under our agreement Department witnesses who choose to attend a voluntary interview with their own lawyer are free to exercise that right rather than participate with counsel representing the Department’s interests.
After being made aware of that provision of our agreement, Acting Director Melson chose to exercise that right and appeared with his own lawyer. We are disappointed that no one had previously informed him of that provision of the agreement. Instead, Justice Department officials sought to limit and control his communications with Congress. This is yet another example of why direct communications with Congress are so important and are protected by law.
Melson has been previously quoted as saying he refuses to be the “fall guy” for this. Now he’s appearing with his own personal lawyer rather than the government lawyers he’s entitled to by his position, and appearing outside the timeline given by his superiors. Things are really starting to heat up, now. The big question – “How far up does this go?” – just got bigger.
Another thing to note: The surprise testimony of an acting head of a major federal agency involved in an international scandal (the core of which arguably constitutes an act of war against an allied nation), a scandal which could potentially reach the Cabinet level, if not the President himself, received little if any coverage by the mainstream media. Would a Republican president get this kind of treatment? More than likely, the headlines would have been screaming “How much did he know, and when did he know it?” long before this point.