Really, now; you would think the math would just catch up with him and he’d have at least accidentally gotten one right by now…
ATF Nominee Faces Retaliation Inquiry
by John Gramlich
An independent government watchdog is probing allegations that President Barack Obama’s nominee to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, B. Todd Jones, improperly retaliated against a whistle-blower while working in his current job as a federal prosecutor in Minnesota.
The investigation by the Office of Special Counsel is the latest complication surrounding Jones’ nomination to lead the ATF, a 5,000-employee law enforcement agency tasked with regulating the nation’s firearms industry. Obama nominated Jones on Jan. 16 as part of his broader plan to address gun violence following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.
Carolyn N. Lerner, the head of the Office of Special Counsel, wrote in an April 12 letter to Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., and ranking Republican Charles E. Grassley of Iowa that her office has launched an investigation into allegations that Jones retaliated against a subordinate while working as the U.S. attorney in Minnesota, a position he has held since August 2009. Jones has worked simultaneously as the ATF’s acting director since August 2011.
The subordinate, an assistant U.S. attorney, “alleges that personnel actions, including a suspension and a lower performance appraisal, were taken in retaliation for protected whistle-blowing or other protected activity,” according to Lerner’s letter, which was provided to CQ Roll Call by an aide to Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. The assistant U.S. attorney’s complaint was filed March 11, two months after Obama nominated Jones to the ATF position.
Lerner wrote that her office is also reviewing a second complaint against Jones made by the same assistant U.S. attorney, alleging “gross mismanagement and abuses of authority in the Narcotics and Violent Crime Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Minnesota.” That complaint, also filed March 11, is still being vetted and has not been referred for an investigation, she wrote.
Lerner added that the Office of Special Counsel has dismissed a third complaint about Jones — made in the form of an anonymous letter from “Employees of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Minnesota” — “because OSC did not have enough information to initiate a substantive inquiry into the concerns raised by the letter.” The anonymous letter, which was dated July 20, 2012, and also provided to CQ Roll Call, alleged that Jones “has instituted a climate of fear” at the federal prosecutor’s office in Minnesota.
Grassley inquired about the anonymous letter in a letter to Lerner on April 8, prompting Lerner to respond and disclose the other complaints and the ongoing investigation into Jones.
The White House did not return requests for comment.
Mounting Problems for Nominee
While the Office of Special Counsel has not made any determinations about the allegations made against Jones, the inquiries are the latest indication that his nomination for a sensitive, politically charged position might be in trouble.
The ATF has lacked a permanent director since 2006, when Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., inserted language into the reauthorization of an anti-terrorism law to require Senate confirmation for the position. Gun rights advocates, who have long viewed the ATF with suspicion, have opposed nominees from both parties.
Grassley has emerged as a leading skeptic of Jones and has raised a host of concerns about him, including his managerial style and his role in “Operation Fast and Furious,” a botched ATF investigation that allowed thousands of guns to enter Mexico illegally. Two of those guns were later found at the murder scene of a U.S. Border Patrol agent in Arizona. [read the rest]
So here’s the growing list of hurdles Jones’s nomination faces:
- First and foremost, the Senate has never had much of an appetite for confirming ATF directors, and has not done so since it got that power in 2006. So right off the bat, that imperils any nominee’s chances.
- Republicans have dogged the Obama administration over the bungled “Fast and Furious” sting operation, and the president named Jones acting ATF head after its failure became public. Republicans want to know what Jones did at ATF after Fast and Furious, and even the smallest connection to the operation damages him as a nominee to head ATF full-time.
- At least one former colleague has attacked Jones’ management of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Minnesota. A long list of officials came out to show support for Jones after that became public, but claims of impropriety are probably enough to keep already-skittish senators from supporting him.
- Today’s news about an internal affairs investigation is certainly enough to further delay Senate action on Jones’s nomination and, depending on the length, focus and results of the inquiry, might sink him entirely.
From the minute Obama nominated Jones, it was doubtful the Senate was going to be able to confirm him. Every drib and drab of bad news since then makes that even more unlikely.