Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich -- who denied, in a letter to Congress, that the gunwalking tactics associated with Operation Fast and Furious were ever used -- is leaving his post, the Justice Department announced today, just days before Congress moves to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt for obstructing an investigation.
"Serving the department has been a tremendous privilege, and I'm pleased with [the Office of Legislative Affairs'] accomplishments over the last three years," Weich said in a statement. "We have worked effectively with Congress to advance the mission and goals of the Justice Department."
Holder said he is "proud of the work done" by Weich and his team, and the Justice Department praised him for "strengthen[ing] the department's relationship with Congress." But Weich has also sat at the center of the controversy that has caused the U.S. House of Representatives to schedule a vote to consider finding Holder in contempt.
"[The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives] makes every effort to interdict weapons that have been purchased illegally and prevent their transportation to Mexico," Weich wrote to Sen. Chuck Grassley in a February 4, 2011 letter stating that all suggestions that federal officials were intentionally allowing weapons to be trafficked from the United States to Mexico were "false."
The Justice Department retracted that letter in December 2011 and Holder was forced to defend Weich and the Justice Department from charges of lying to Congress. "Nobody at the Justice Department has lied," he said when retracting Weich's letter, claiming that Weich didn't know the information he provided was inaccurate.
Even if Weich and DOJ had bad information regarding Operation Fast and Furious in February, the head of ATF warned DOJ to "back off" Weich's denial in April. "We still don’t have a decent explanation for why it took so long to acknowledge the truth," Grassley said during a Senate hearing on Operation Fast and Furious yesterday.
House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., has requested that Holder turn over 140,000 pages of documents pertaining to Operation Fast and Furious that were created after Weich sent his letter, but Holder has so far refused -- although he has given them to his in-house investigator, the inspector general.
Holder and Issa are discussing a compromise that would allow the attorney general to avoid the contempt vote.
Weich will take a position as dean of the University of Baltimore School of Law next month, the Daily Caller noted.