‘Fast and Furious’ probe shows Burke called DOJ officials ‘chuckleheads’


House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa’s investigation has unearthed some interesting e-mails. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

In an e-mails revealed as part of the investigation into the Justice Department’s “Operation Fast and Furious”--and brought to our attention by our eagle-eyed colleague Sari Horwitz-- Arizona’s former U.S. attorney called DOJ public-affairs officials “chuckleheads” for criticizing a press release from his office and then took a veiled dig at Michelle Obama’s obesity campaign.

According to the electronic missives, U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke (who has since resigned) had approved a January press release in which his office described “Mexican drug lords...shopping for war weapons in Arizona.” In a quote from the release, the head of the state’s field division used the phrase “the ongoing Mexican drug war.” That phraseology, apparently, didn’t sit well with Washington.

“OPA didn’t like me using ‘war,’”Burke complained in an e-mail to U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman of New Jersey. “30,000 people are dead in Mexico. Sounds like war to me.”

Then Burke referred to the anti-obesity campaign championed by Michelle Obama. “Ok to have a ‘War on Obesity’ but not regarding Mexico....” the e-mail said.

In a similar e-mail to Preet Bharara, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, Burke expressed frustration at the public-affairs shop’s criticism. “So the chuckleheads at DoJ OPA called my office to complain that I used the word ‘war’ about the current circumstances in Mexico,” he wrote.

Bharara responded with sympathetic solidarity. “Don’t listen to them,” he replied in an e-mail. “Thanks for the heads up, because now I will use ‘war’ constantly.”

The electronic exchanges were made public after Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee , subpoenaed the Justice Department to provide them as part of his panel’s probe into the Fast and Furious program.

But it wasn’t Burke’s first brush with cringe-inducing e-mails. Messages contained in a previous bath of records released as part of the probe reportedly show Burke calling staffers for Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) “willing stooges for the Gun Lobby.”

Emily Heil is the co-author of the Reliable Source and previously helped pen the In the Loop column with Al Kamen.

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