(CNSNews.com) - The Justice Department announced Wednesday that Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer, head of the criminal division, "will leave the department on March 1, 2013." The decision may not have been his choice.
According to Politico on Tuesday, "a deal may be near in the Operation-Fast-and-Furious-related dispute that led the House of Representatives to cite Attorney General Eric Holder for contempt last year."
The House has filed a lawsuit to enforce its subpoena against Holder. It is demanding that he turn over records showing how the Justice Department responded to congressional inquiries about the gun-running scandal.
But Politico reported that both the House and the Justice Department have asked that a scheduled hearing in the case be delayed as the two sides try to work out a deal. Breuer's departure may be part of that deal.
In a news release announcing Breuer's departure, the Justice Department touted his accomplishments, including a mention that "the Criminal Division has made great strides in the fight against violent crime along the southwest border and across the country."
There was no mention of "Fast and Furious," the ATF's guns-to-Mexico scheme that prompted Sen. Chuck Grassley, ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, to call for Breuer to be fired.
Grassley says Breuer misled the committee.
"When the Justice Department sent its letter to me denying ATF ever walked guns, Breuer knew otherwise," Grassley said in a floor speech last September, after the Justice Department inspector-general released a report on the gun-running operation in which the ATF, a division of the Justice Department, allowed illegal straw purchases of guns to take place for the purpose of tracing them to Mexican drug cartels.
One of the guns turned up at the scene where U.S. Border Agent Brian Terry was murdered.
Grassley, in his Sept. floor speech, said Breuer "knew in 2010 about gunwalking in another case" called "Operation Wide Receiver," which preceded "Fast and Furious."
"Yet he waited nine months before emails about Wide Receiver were about to be produced to Congress before he publicly apologized for not doing more about gunwalking" in that case, Grassley said.
The senator said Breuer "should have come forward in February 2011 and told Congress that he knew ATF had walked guns. His failure to do so, coupled with his attempt to mislead Congress, are why I have called for him to resign or be fired."
The Justice Department's announcement that Breuer is leaving came on Wednesday morning, at the same time the Senate Judiciary Committee was holding a hearing titled, "What Should America Do About Gun Violence."