Republicans threaten to subpoena WH official

Two high-ranking officials at the Justice Department are out Wednesday, after an investigation of a botched gun case codenamed Fast and Furious. CBS News

Congressional Republicans are threatening to subpoena a White House official who declined to speak to them in their investigation of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) gunwalking operation: Fast and Furious.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, have pressed, unsuccessfully, for an interview with Kevin O'Reilly for a year. O'Reilly also declined to speak to the Department of Justice Inspector General (IG) who investigated Fast and Furious. Last week, the IG issued a scathing report that criticized many officials at ATF, the Justice Department and the U.S. Attorney's office and said O'Reilly had declined to be interviewed.

O'Reilly, then a White House National Security staffer, had phone and email exchanges about Fast and Furious from July 2010 to Feb. 2011 with the lead ATF official on the case: ATF Special Agent in Charge Bill Newell. Just days after Newell testified to Congress on July 26, 2011 that he'd shared information with O'Reilly, whom he described as a long time friend, O'Reilly was transferred to Iraq and not available for questioning. Thereafter, he declined interviews with congressional investigators and the IG.

In a letter sent to O'Reilly's attorney Thursday, Issa and Grassley state that O'Reilly's "sudden transfer" to Iraq took him out of pocket in their investigation, and placed him in a position that had already been given to somebody else, raising "serious questions about O'Reilly's assignment in Baghdad (and) the motivation for his transfer there."

White House officials have said there is no evidence O'Reilly was told about the controversial details of Fast and Furious: namely, that ATF officials were allowing thousands of weapons to fall into the hands of Mexican drug cartels.

"Given that O'Reilly was the link connecting the White House to the scandal, and that the President subsequently asserted executive privilege over the documents pertaining to Fast and Furious, it is imperative that the American people get to the bottom of O'Reilly's involvement with Fast and Furious," says the letter to O'Reilly's attorney.

It goes on to say that if O'Reilly does not agree to an interview within 30 days, congressional Republicans will have no choice but to "use compulsory process" or subpoena power to require his testimony.

O'Reilly's attorney did not immediately return phone and email requests for comment.

In a related development, a key whistleblower in the gunwalking scandal, ATF Special Agent John Dodson, is demanding Fortune Magazine retract a June 27 article by Katherine Eban, which claimed no gunwalking had occurred. Dodson says the article falsely portrayed him as a disgruntled employee motivated by spite. Congressional Republicans had previously asked for a retraction, but Fortune Magazine stood by its report. When the IG findings were released last week, which included confirmation that ATF had, in fact, allowed massive gunwalking, Eban published a statement that read in part: "The facts presented by Fortune do not appear to be in dispute, but on this point the Inspector General has drawn a different conclusion from them."

The Hispanic news network "Univision" is planning to air an hour long investigation of Fast and Furious Sunday in which it claims to have "identified massacres committed with guns from the ATF operation, including the killing of 16 young people attending a party in a residential area of Ciudad Juárez in January of 2010."

  • Sharyl Attkisson On Twitter»

    Sharyl Attkisson is a CBS News investigative correspondent based in Washington.

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