Initial drafts of the letter reflected the hard tone of Burke’s unequivocal assertions that the allegations Grassley was hearing from ATF agents were wrong. Later drafts were more measured, prompting Burke to complain in one email: “Every version gets weaker. We will be apologizing” to Grassley “by tomorrow afternoon.” Regarding the allegation that ATF sanctioned the sale of assault weapons to a straw purchaser, the Justice Department denial was scaled back slightly from “categorically false” to “false.” ”Why poke the tiger,” Lisa Monaco, the top aide to the deputy attorney general, explained in an email to Ron Weich, the assistant attorney general for legislative affairs whose signature was on the letter.
In another email, Burke wrote, “By the way, what is so offensive about this whole project” of response “is that Grassley’s staff, acting as willing stooges for the Gun Lobby, have attempted to distract from the incredible success in dismantling” Southwest Border “gun trafficking operations” and “not uttering one word of rightful praise and thanks to ATF — but, instead, lobbing this reckless despicable accusation that ATF is complicit in the murder of a fellow federal law enforcement officer.”
An accusation that, as it turned out – and contra Mr. Burke’s strenuous denials – was true.
On Friday night, Grassley spokeswoman Beth Levine said that “Burke personally apologized to Sen. Grassley’s staff for the tone and the content of the emails” after learning from the Justice Department that the emails would be released.
Apologize now, or apologize later I suppose.
Perhaps its different in other parts of the federal bureaucracy, but in the Navy, at least, senior executives take congressional inquiries quite seriously. And you’d never make it to flag rank by committing your actual thoughts about congressmen or senators to an email.
Of course, flag officers are typically selected competitively based on such characteristics as intelligence, integrity and professional performance. US attorneys, being political appointees, may have other selection criteria.