The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives announced today that the embattled interim director who oversaw the flawed gun-smuggling investigation known as “Fast and Furious” is stepping down.
Kenneth Melson, who led the agency since 2009, was reassigned as a senior adviser to the assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Policy, according to an ATF statement.
“ATF employees are hard working and dedicated to the mission of protecting the public every day, and in my time here I have seen firsthand their extraordinary commitment to stopping violent crime,” Melson said in the statement. “I will miss working with them, but know that my continued work at the department will contribute in their pursuit and prosecution of violent criminals.”
The announcement drew an immediate rebuke from U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who said the U.S. Department of Justice should have instead sought Melson’s resignation due to the “Fast and Furious” scandal. During the Arizona-based operation, agents allowed thousands of weapons to enter Mexico, including several that were subsequently used in crimes.
“Instead of reassigning those responsible for ‘Fast and Furious’ within the Department of Justice, Attorney General Holder should ask for their resignations and come clean on all alleged gun-walking operations,” Cornyn said in a statement.
Cornyn added the department should also come clean and answer questions the senator posed earlier this month about reports that a similar “gun walking” operation took place in Texas. ATF officials have denied claims that a Texas-based operation ever took place.
Attorney General Eric Holder announced that B. Todd Jones, the U.S. attorney for the District of Minnesota, will take Melson's place as acting director. The Obama administration's choice to become the full-time head of the ATF has been blocked by opposition from the National Rife Association.
Before joining the bureau, Melson was the director of the Executive Office for United States Attorneys. He has also served as a co-chairman of the Subcommittee on Forensic Science at the National Science and Technology Council within the Executive Office of the President, according to the ATF website.