White House answers Congress in Gunwalker

CBS/AP
An administration official Congress wanted to interview before the end of the month may be unavailable. That's according to a new letter from a White House counsel to members of Congress investigating the ATF Fast and Furious "Gunwalker" scandal.

On September 9th, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) asked the White House to make former National Security Advisor Kevin O'Reilly available for an interview before the end of September to help "determine the extent of the involvement of White House staff in Operation Fast and Furious."

Emails already obtained by Congress show O'Reilly communicated about gun trafficking efforts with then-Special Agent in Charge of ATF's Phoenix office William Newell as early as summer of 2010. In the email exchanges O'Reilly asked Newell if it was okay to share the information with other White House staffers. Congressional investigators are seeking all related communications.

The new letter from the President's counsel doesn't say O'Reilly can't be interviewed by Congressional investigators, but neither does it provide an availability date. Instead the letter states that

O'Reilly, who has moved from the White House to the State Department from where he was tasked, is "currently on a previously scheduled assignment to Iraq."

The members of Congress also asked for other documents and communications within the White House staff regarding Fast and Furious by September 23rd. No materials were provided, but the President's Attorney indicated some could be handed over by the end of this week.

In Operation Fast and Furious, ATF allegedly allowed thousands of weapons to "walk" onto the streets and into the hands of Mexico's drug cartels.

President Obama has said neither he nor Attorney General Eric Holder approved of or knew about any gunwalking. Further, a spokesman for the administration has said nobody in the White House knew of any gunwalking tactics.

  • Sharyl Attkisson On Twitter»

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

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