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Urgent: Arrests Imminent

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EUR/USD FACING PRESSURE AFTER ITALIAN PRIME MINISTER RESIGNS

As we begin the new trading week, EUR/USD has settled down, following sharp losses late last week. The euro is under pressure as Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti announced on Friday that he plans to resign. Monti, who has gained the respect of the markets with his skillful handling of Italy’s debt crisis, stated that he could no longer lead the country without the support of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s party. The dramatic development means that Italians will head to the polls early next year. The markets are concerned that the political uncertainty could have an adverse impact on Italy’s weak economy, the third largest in the Euro-zone. Italy is mired in recession, and the loss of Monti’s steady hand at the helm could undermine confidence in the shaky Italian economy.. Immediately following the resignation announcement, the Standard & Poor’s rating agency was quick to state that it was concerned whether the new Italian government would continue to practice austerity, and warned that it could lower Italy’s credit rating if the economy does not improve in 2013.

In Germany, the Bundesbank lowered its growth forecast for the Euro-zone’s largest economy. In its semi-annual report, the Bundesbank stated that it expects GDP to grow 0.7% this year and a negligible 0.4% in 2013. Earlier this year, the powerful central bank had predicted GDP growth of 1% in 2012 and 1.6% in 2013. On a positive note, the report stated that the economy should expand by a respectable 1.6% in 2014. The markets were pleased with US employment numbers. Non-Farm Employment Change dipped in November, but came in well above the forecast. As well, the US unemployment rate dropped to 7.7%, its lowest level since February 20o9. However, Prelim UoM Consumer Sentiment had a weak release, as the important consumer indicator dropped to 74.5 points, a four-month low. The market estimate stood at 82.4 points.

Back in Europe, German Industrial Production slumped badly, posting its worst numbers since February. The key indicator fell 2.6%, disappointing the markets which had predicted a modest decline of 0.4%. In today’s releases, Italian and French Industrial Production disappointed, falling well below the estimates. In today’s releases, Italian and French Industrial Production both disappointed, falling well below the estimates. It is a quiet day in the US, with no scheduled releases today.

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CHEIK MODIBO DIARRA, MAI PRIME MINISTER, RESIGNS AFTER BEING ARRESTED BY JUNTA

BAMAKO, Mali — Soldiers arrested Mali's prime minister and forced him to resign before dawn on Tuesday, showing that the military remains the real power in this troubled West African nation despite handing back authority to civilians after a coup in March.

The prime minister's ouster comes as the United Nations considers backing a military intervention in Mali, a once-stable country now in constant turmoil. By late Tuesday, a new prime minister had been named, but the developments drew international rebuke and raised questions about the viability of the military operation, which would use the country's military to try to take back Mali's north from Islamic extremists.

Prime Minister Cheikh Modibo Diarra, dressed in a dark suit, his expression somber, appeared on state television at 4 a.m. to announce his resignation, hours after soldiers stormed his house.

"Our country is living through a period of crisis. Men and women who are worried about the future of our nation are hoping for peace," he said on television. "It's for this reason that I, Cheikh Modibo Diarra, am resigning along with my entire government on this day, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. I apologize before the entire population of Mali."

The 60-year-old Diarra is a NASA astrophysicist who has contributed to numerous space exploration missions including the Magellan probe to Venus and the Galileo spacecraft to Jupiter. He is now under house arrest, said a spokesman for the junta, Bakary Mariko.

The government remains technically under the control of the interim president, Dioncounda Traore, who waited nearly 24 hours after Diarra's arrest to address the nation. Late Tuesday, he issued a decree naming a longtime civil servant, Django Sissoko, as the new prime minister. And in an oblique speech, he spoke of the need for Mali to remain united in its goal of reconquering the north and installing democracy, never mentioning the military.

The shake-up in Bamako is already looking like it may endanger plans for the military intervention. The African Union is proposing sending several thousand African troops to help the Malian military take back the north, which fell to al-Qaida-linked Islamists in the chaos that followed the March 21 coup.

The military's meddling in state affairs has concerned the international community. Many worry that supporting the operation will simply further arm and embolden the very officers responsible for Mali's current state.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle warned Tuesday that Diarra's forced resignation makes Western countries wary of getting involved in a military incursion.

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INDONESIAN MINISTER RESIGNS OVER CORRUPTION ALLEGATIONS

A circle of corruption allegations is tightening around Indonesia's ruling party - and even the president's own cabinet. Today a minister in Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's government was forced to resign after being named as a corruption suspect. Andi Mularangeng was the president's spokesman until today, and he was a member of the ruling party's advisory board.

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ITALIAN POLICE ARREST EX-FINMECCANICA EXEC, INVESTIGATE FORMER MINISTER FOR ALLEGED CORRUPTION

MILAN - Italian prosecutors are investigating a former Cabinet minister and have ordered the arrest of a former sales manager for Finmeccanica as part of a corruption investigation into the state-controlled aerospace and engineering giant's international dealings.

Former economic development minister Claudio Scajola is under investigation for alleged corruption in connection with Finmeccanica contracts in Brazil for the supply of Naval frigates, Italian media reported Tuesday.

Scajola, who resigned from former premier Silvio Berlusconi's last government in a private housing scandal, denied any wrongdoing.

"I always carried out the duties of economic development minister, which took me around the world, in full respect of the laws and rules," Scajola told TG 24 Italian television. "I never had private meetings. I am not worried, and I don't know what is behind this, but I am available to the prosecutors if they want to hear what I have to say."

Police earlier arrested the former sales manager for Finmeccancia, Paolo Pozzessere, on suspicion of international corruption related to the supply of helicopters and other technology to Panama. Naples prosecutors allege that a Panamanian company acting as an intermediary for the deal was "secretly" controlled by a Panamanian politician.

Finmeccanica has previously denied having paid or promised kickbacks of any kind to any intermediary or the government of Panama.

Pozzessere resigned from his position last September, saying that he was stepping down to protect the company's reputation and denying any involvement in illegal activities. He remains an adviser to the company on Russia.

Finmeccanica, which has been the subject of a series of corruption probes that saw a chairman and former CEO resign under government pressure last December, had no comment on the development. The company is 30 per cent owned by the Italian government, which was coming under heat for not commenting on the developments involving Finmeccanica's international dealings.

Separately, the company's former Chairman and CEO Pier Francesco Guarguaglini and his wife are suspected of being involved in a scheme in which false invoices were used to evade taxes and set up a €2 million ($2.7 million) slush fund to pay off political go-betweens. Both have denied wrongdoing.

Finmeccanica is a global player in defence and aeronautics that employs more than 75,000 people worldwide and focuses on designing and manufacturing helicopters, civil and military aircraft, satellites, space infrastructure, missiles and defence electronics.

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My favorite thing about venom.

He doesn't let any of you people's negativity bother him.

As I have said, much of this is hard to believe, but keep powering forward dude.

4 people like this

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KNU PRESIDENT GENERAL TAMLA BAW RESIGNS AND URGES CONGRESS TO ELECT 'RIGHT LEADERS'

General Tamla Baw, the Karen National Union’s President resigned on the first day of the KNU’s 15th Congress held at Lay Wah Camp, Hlaing Bwe Towhship in Karen State. General Tamla Baw, who had a long and distinguish career as a soldier said in his opening speech at the KNU Congress.

“I will resign at this Congress. I advise those who remain working in the KNU, that they have to work in the right way and to develop and bring on the new leaders. When electing new leaders at this Congress, please elect the right people who have the ability and the intelligence to analyze the political situations. Leaders are not those who are followers but can lead the people.”

In his opening speech, General Tamla Baw, stressed that, “the KNU is the Karen national revolutionary organization and is working hand-in-hand with all people for the emergence of peace. In this case we should not blame and oppose our heroes who sacrificed their lives during our struggle.”

The KNU 15th Congress has asked President General Tamla Baw and Padoh David Tha K’paw to take on the chair and the KNU General Secretary, Naw Zipporah Sein, the 1st Secretary P’doh Saw Hla Ngwe and 2nd Secretary P’doh Saw Dot Lay Mu to be the Congress facilitators.

Attending the Congress will be all KNU districts, seven military Brigades, the General Headquarter, KNLA Headquarter representatives and representatives from Karen communities inside Burma and from outside the country – all together there 175 people will attend.

The Congress will hear statements from a diverse range of representatives that include the Karen State culture and literature, the Abbot of Taung Kalay, former political prisoner, Min Ko Naing, the leader of the 88 New Generation, the Australian Karen Organization, the National Democratic Front, the United National Federation Council, the National League for Democracy (Liberation Area), the Arakhine Liberation Front and the European Karen Network.

The daughter of the charismatic Karen hero and martyr, Saw Ba U Gyi, Thelma Gyi will also attend and speak at the Congress. The Congress is due to finish on December 7th.

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3 POLICE ARREST SERBIA'S RICHEST MAN IN ANTI-GRAFT PROBE

* Retail tycoon held in inquiry into privatised road companies

* Miskovic seen as one of Serbia's most influential figures

* Made money under Milosevic, flourished under democrats (Adds analyst, edits)

By Aleksandar Vasovic

BELGRADE, Dec 12 (Reuters) - Miroslav Miskovic, a billionaire tycoon who built a retail empire during Yugoslavia's bloody collapse and went on to become one of Serbia's most powerful people, was arrested on Wednesday as part of a corruption investigation.

The swoop climaxed months of accusations against Miskovic by Defence Minister Aleksandar Vucic, the government's anti-graft czar who took power six months ago promising to get to grips with deep-rooted organised crime and corruption.

Success on that front is crucial for Serbia's candidacy for membership of the European Union, with Belgrade pushing for accession talks to start in 2013.

Miskovic, a slight, bespectacled 67-year-old who is estimated to be Serbia's richest man, was arrested at his home in the snowbound capital, Belgrade. Eight others were also taken into custody, including Miskovic's son, Marko.

"The message to everyone in Serbia is that there are no more untouchables," said political analyst Zoran Stojiljkovic. "Regimes and governments changed, but he (Miskovic) stayed. This is now a clear message that nothing is off the table."

The chief organised crime prosecutor said those arrested were suspected of illegally milking millions of euros from a group of privatised and now bankrupt road maintenance companies.

"According to charges ... as co-owners of privatised road maintenance companies between 2005 and the end of 2010, they siphoned off funds and property and made financial gains of as much as 2.9 billion dinars ($33.4 million)," prosecutor Miljko Radisavljevic told Reuters.

Miskovic's Delta Holding company issued a statement denying any irregularities. "We are absolutely sure of the legality of operations by Delta Holding and its owner (Miroslav) Miskovic," the company said on its website. It said the board of directors would continue to manage the company.

CHANGE OF POWER

His arrest was a bold move by the governing coalition, an alliance of nationalists and socialists who last shared power at the tail end of Slobodan Milosevic's 13-year rule, when Vucic was the feared minister of information and Serbia was at war with NATO.

The Belgrade government says it is serious about tackling crime, though some Western diplomats fear it is motivated more by political score-settling than genuine reform.

Police said they had stepped up security for Vucic, saying Miskovic had threatened him during the arrest. Miskovic's lawyer denied his client had threatened anyone.

Under Milosevic, Serbia became a pariah for its role in the wars that tore apart Yugoslavia in the 1990s. As ordinary Serbs became mired in poverty, a brash elite made fortunes busting sanctions and profiting from cosy ties to the president.

Miskovic served briefly as deputy prime minister under Milosevic in 1990, but quickly switched to private business. When Milosevic was ousted in 2000, Miskovic survived and then flourished under the pro-Western Democrats who took power.

With over 7,000 employees, Delta Holding has interests in retail, agribusiness, real estate and insurance in Serbia and the Balkans region. It is the exclusive distributor of Nike and a franchise partner of Costa Coffee.

In 2007, Miskovic was worth a billion dollars, according to the finance magazine Forbes. In 2011, he sold his Delta Maxi supermarket chain to Delhaize, a Belgium-based retailer, for 932.5 million euro ($1.21 billion).

Last year, Delta Holding says it turned over 1.42 billion euros ($1.85 billion).

The pro-Western Democratic Party was voted out in May this year, punished for a bruising economic downturn and accusations of cronyism - and replaced by a socialist-nationalist alliance.

Since then, police have arrested more than a dozen businessmen, including two ex-cabinet ministers from the former ruling Democratic Party, on charges of corruption, fraud and abuse of office.

($1 = 0.7693 euros) (Editing by Matt Robinson and Mark Heinrich)

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GERMAN POLICE RAIDS DEUTSCHE BANK OFFICES IN TAX FRAUD PROBE

Police has searched several offices of Germany’s biggest bank, Deutsche Bank AG, in connection with a carbon credit tax evasion case. The Bank’s Co-CEO Fitscheand and CFO Krause are currently under investigation.

Five hundred police officers raided Deutsche Bank offices and other private residences in Frankfurt, Berlin and Duesseldorf on Wednesday.

Five arrest warrants for bank employees were issued following the major Frankfurt office raid, in which the building was surrounded by more than 20 police cars.

According to the prosecution, 25 Deutsche Bank employees have been suspected of serious tax evasion, money laundering and attempted obstruction of justice, including Co-Chief Executive Officer Juergen Fitschen and Chief Financial Officer Stefan Krause.

The raid was a part of the CO2 tax evasion probe, Deutsche Bank confirmed in a statement, adding that it was “cooperating fully” with the prosecution.

The investigation of CO2 emission certificates trade by Deutsche Bank employees has been going on since early 2010, with six people sentenced to jail by a German court last year.

Those already convicted in the 300 million euro tax fraud case bought the CO2 emission permits abroad without paying taxes on them. They then went on to resell of the certificates among themselves, skimming off the total value in unpaid taxes.

The prosecution is now investigating if Deutsche Bank employees assisted the fraudsters’ trade.

The EU law limiting CO2 emissions for companies allows for the selling of some carbon tax certificates if the company doesn’t emit its total limit of CO2. Other companies that need to increase their CO2 limit can then buy these excess certificates, opening a potential loophole for fraud.

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TUNISIAN PRESIDENT MAY RESIGN

Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki may step down due to changes in the country’s cabinet, his chief of staff Emad al-Dayemi announced on Tuesday.

“Marzouki will leave his post if he feels that his presence is not at the service of his country,” al-Dayemi said, adding the president’s decision came in reaction to the remarks made by Ennahda Movement officials that reforms in the Tunisian cabinet may include a resignation of the president.

Marzouki took office only to serve his country and not to secure the interests of any given party, al-Jazeera quoted him as saying.

Marzuki will not be forced to step down and he will resign on his own will, the Tunisian official added.

Al-Dayemi’s remarks came after some officials in the ruling Ennahda Party spoke of Marzouki’s resignation for reshuffling the cabinet.

On Saturday, Moncef Marzouki asked the nation’s Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali to appoint a new cabinet as protests over economic hardship continue to sweep the streets of the North African state.

In a televised national address on Friday, President Moncef Marzouki said that the country’s coalition government had not “met the expectations of the people” and asked that a new one, smaller and specialised to deal with the unrest, be formed.

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ARGENTINIAN PRESIDENT RESIGNS

President Fernando De la Rua resigned and fled the government palace in a helicopter, driven from office by a devastating economic crisis and days of rioting that left 22 people dead and homes and supermarkets across Argentina ransacked.

De la Rua's sudden downfall yesterday came amid Argentina's worst unrest in a decade. Screeching tear gas canisters arced across the capital and police fired rubber bullets at thousands of anti-government protesters in the runup to his fall.

Rioters looted houses and stores in other cities, and more than 200 people were injured nationwide.

"I'm delighted he's finally gone. Thank God!" said Maria Andrejuk, who was among those celebrating after tensions eased across much of Buenos Aires. But as night fell, some looting persisted.

Now Argentina's faltering economy awaits the hands of a caretaker government led by the party founded by strongman Juan Peron in the 1940s. The Peronists take their turn at trying to tame a crisis that has left the country perilously close to defaulting on its $132 billion debt burden.

Senate Leader Ramon Puerta was in line to take over today as interim president until a special legislative assembly decides whether to call new elections within months.

De La Rua was departing as one of the most unpopular leaders in Argentina's history, driven out by nationwide protests by thousands of Argentines fed up with his calls for more belt-tightening.

In working-class neighbourhoods in Buenos Aires province, hordes of teenagers ransacked grocery stores as outnumbered police stood by helplessly, while helmeted officers fired tear gas to disperse dozens of looters in a central Buenos Aires neighbourhood.

Earlier in the day, the capital's streets looked like a battleground. Fires smouldered and smoke curled over the Plaza de Mayo outside the ornate pink government palace as thousands gathered to vent anger over the economy and call for De la Rua's ouster.

Black-clad officers swung truncheons, fired rubber bullets and aimed water cannons on the seething crowds of demonstrators. Many shirtless youths hurled sticks and cobblestones back at police lines. Scores of people, weeping from acrid tear gas, fled with rubber bullet wounds.

Across the nation, 22 people died, police said.

Protesters called for De la Rua to step onto the balcony and face the people, shouting, "Come out! Come out!" The shutters stayed shut, and the palace was surrounded by iron barricades and scores of riot police.

De La Rua declared a state of siege late on Wednesday, assuming increased powers to quell the two days of unrest. Economy Minister Domingo Cavallo quit early yesterday, followed by reports that the entire Cabinet offered to resign.

With chaos on the streets, De la Rua made a final bid to hold onto his presidency, calling for the opposition to join a national unity government.

Rebuffed by opposition leaders, he tendered his resignation hours later in a handwritten letter.

As the sun set behind a haze of tear gas, De La Rua's helicopter lifted off from the government palace rooftop and took him to his suburban residence. The heliport hadn't been used by a departing leader since Isabel Peron was pushed out in a 1976 coup.

The collapse appeared to end a gruelling political crisis that began more than a year ago with the resignation De la Rua's vice president, Carlos Alvarez.

De La Rua took office in December 1999 with a popularity rating above 70 percent, a no-nonsense image and a pledge to improve the economy. But he soon became seen as indecisive, and left with ratings in single digits.

"I think he totally lacked direction and he clearly couldn't fix the economy," said Pablo Mario Alvarez, 50. "I was excited when he first came to office, but that quickly faded."

Discontent with De La Rua was stoked by four years of bitter recession that exhausted the country and left it lurching close to default on its massive public debt.

Though De la Rua technically remained president, media reports said Congress would accept De la Rua's resignation and appoint Puerta interim president in a session this morning.

He faces a tough job. Growth, production and business confidence are plummeting, and unemployment has topped 18 per cent.

Many analysts now predict the new government will likely end the Argentine peso's one-to-one peg with the dollar, in place since 1991. While it helped Argentina vanquish hyperinflation more than a decade ago, today it is blamed for making Argentine exports uncompetitive abroad.

Any devaluation of the peso could mean instant bankruptcy for thousands of Argentines, along with many of the country's largest businesses. More than 80 per cent of contracts and debts are denominated in the dollar.

Before De la Rua's resignation, a senior White House official said President George W. Bush's administration would wait for the dust to settle before deciding what, if any, action to take to help Argentina recover.

The official said limited direct financial assistance has not been completely ruled out, although the Bush administration still wants Argentina to resolve its problems through the International Monetary Fund.

Earlier, U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill said the Bush administration, the IMF and the World Bank would continue working with Argentina to pull it back from the brink of economic collapse.

But he said the initiative to put Argentina on solid financial footing "has to come from the leadership of the country. It's not something that can be imposed from outside."

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CHINA DISMISSES TOP PROVINCAL OFFICIAL AFTER CORRUPTION PROBE

(Reuters) - China has dismissed a top official in the southwestern province of Sichuan after putting him under investigation for "serious disciplinary violations", the official Xinhua news agency reported on Thursday.

Sichuan's deputy party boss, Li Chuncheng, is the most senior person to be investigated since Xi Jinping became leader of the Chinese Communist Party.

Xi has vowed to crackdown on corruption, warning last month that if corruption was allowed to run wild, the party risked major unrest and the collapse of its rule.

"The central government has decided to remove all leadership positions of (Li)" due to suspicion of "serious disciplinary violations", Xinhua said in a brief report on its website, without elaborating.

The term "serious disciplinary violations" usually results in criminal charges.

Xi, who was named party leader in mid-November and will assume the presidency at an annual meeting of parliament in March, has appointed Wang Qishan, a man known as "the chief firefighter" for his ability to deal with crises, as his top graft fighter.

State media said a week ago that Li was being investigated by the party's discipline watchdog.

Li had served in Sichuan since 1998 and had been party chief of the prosperous provincial capital, Chengdu. He was only appointed as the province's deputy party boss in September of last year.

Li had also been elected to the party's Central Committee, a ruling council with about 200 full members and 170 or so alternate members, at last month's congress as an alternate member.

(Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee; editing by Jonathan Standing)

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HOLDER'S CHIEF OF STAFF TO RESIGN AFTER CRITICAL FAST AND FURIOUS REPORT

Attorney General Eric Holder’s chief of staff, Gary Grindler, plans to resign his post at the Department of Justice on Wednesday. Grindler was directly involved in the Operation Fast and Furious scandal.

Congressional investigators from House oversight committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa’s and Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Sen. Chuck Grassley’s offices detailed Grindler’s involvement in a recent report. They say Grindler, with other senior DOJ officials, “attended a detailed briefing on Operation Fast and Furious in March 2010.”

“Despite the evidence presented at the briefing of illegally-purchased firearms being recovered in Mexico and in the U.S., Grindler and Siskel failed to ask probing questions or take any significant follow-up action to monitor and supervise the conduct of the case,” a press release accompanying the report added.

Grindler’s handwritten notes from the meeting have become a focal point of the Fast and Furious investigation in Congress.

At that time, Grindler was Holder’s Deputy Attorney General – the second-highest ranking Justice Department official. On Jan. 3, 2011 – after Border Patrol agent Brian Terry was killed, but before Fast and Furious was known to the public – Holder moved Grindler from the DAG spot over to become his chief of staff. Throughout the Fast and Furious scandal’s development up until this point, Grindler has remained in that spot.

The DOJ’s internal Inspector General also ripped Grindler for his part in Fast and Furious. “We determined that Grindler learned on December 17, 2010, of the link between weapons found at the Terry murder scene and Operation Fast and Furious but did not inform the Attorney General about this information,” the Inspector General wrote. He chided Grindler for relying on the FBI, which was incapable of investigating crucial facets of the case:

We believe that he should have informed the Attorney General as well as made an appropriate inquiry of ATF or the U.S. Attorney’s Office about the connection. Grindler told us that he was relying on the FBI to investigate the homicide and that would include investigation of the weapons in question. We found that Grindler’s reliance on the FBI was misplaced given that it did not have the responsibility to determine whether errors in ATF’s investigation led to the weapons ending up at the murder scene or why ATF failed to take law enforcement action against Avila for nearly one year and did so only after Agent Terry’s murder. We also believe that Grindler should have ensured that the Department of Homeland Security was informed about the linkage.

In a late Monday statement, Issa lauded Grindler’s resignation and said he expects more Fast and Furious accountability in the near future. “Gary Grindler was appropriately faulted by his Department’s own Inspector General for keeping information about a connection between the murder of a Border Patrol Agent and a mishandled department operation away from the Attorney General and the Department of Homeland Security,” Issa said in a statement. “His departure from the Justice Department is warranted and long overdue. Other figures in Operation Fast and Furious are currently being evaluated for their conduct in the reckless effort that needlessly placed lives in danger. I expect more departures and discipline to come.”

When asked if his resignation this week has anything to do with Fast and Furious, a Justice Department spokesperson told Breitbart News that the two are “not related at all.”

In a statement, Holder praised Grindler. “Since returning to the Department in 2009, Gary has distinguished himself as an exceptional public servant, a trusted advisor, and a principled leader,” Holder said. He continued his ovation:

Throughout his tenure – as Acting Deputy Attorney General and as my chief of staff – Gary has played a central role in our work to protect the American people and I will always be grateful for his dedication to the Department, his service to our Nation, and his sound advice and personal friendship. He has demonstrated time and again his good judgment and an ability to make the tough – and correct – decisions. I cannot imagine the Department without Gary, though I wish him all the best as he considers opportunities in the private sector – and I know that his extraordinary contributions will continue to guide our efforts.

More than 130 House Republicans and several GOP U.S. senators have demanded Holder’s resignation in the wake of the gun-walking scandal. A bipartisan group in the House also voted Holder into civil and criminal contempt of Congress.

Over the weekend, reports surfaced that several other officials involved in Fast and Furious were fired.

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