If Fast and Furious was really just a “botched operation” that began under the previous administration, as White House spokesman Jay Carney claimed Thursday, then why is the president invoking executive privilege to conceal documents? That seems to be the question on the mind of the editorial writers at the Chicago Tribune, which today is calling on the president to hand over the subpoenaed documents.
The White House could spare all of us a distracting and damaging battle over executive privilege — a murky principle not defined in the Constitution — if Holder would share these documents with the American people.
A brief recap of F&F: The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosivesallowed guns to flow illegally into Mexico. The idea was to track the guns and snag some honchos in the Mexican drug cartels. The ATF lost track of guns that ultimately were used in crimes on both sides of the border. Most prominently, two of the guns were recovered after U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed in Arizona.
Full public disclosure on F&F would have been the best way to defuse this crisis long ago: Whose idea was it? How did it go so spectacularly awry? Instead, the administration slow-walked document disclosures and invited more questions about who knew what and when. Remember what then-acting ATF director Kenneth Melson told congressional investigators last year? He said Justice was scrambling to protect its political appointees from taking the blame in the rapidly spreading scandal.
Obama’s assertion of executive privilege now provokes more questions about possible White House involvement in Fast and Furious. Michael Steel, spokesman for Republican House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, said Obama’s decision to insert himself into this matter “implies that White House officials were either involved in the Fast and Furious operation or the cover-up that followed.”
That’s an assumption the withheld documents might confirm — or disprove. We in the American public don’t know, and we won’t know as long as these documents stay secret.
Indeed. Holder’s own offer to deliver a briefing on the documents, but not the documents themselves, should also raise suspicions that the documents contain one or more explosive revelations. Holder has already been caught making conflicting statements and his department delivered a letter on the matter so inaccurate that it was later retracted. Holder’s and the Justice Department’s word on the matter is, at this point, worthless. Only the actual documents should be acceptable. Holder’s deal amounts to the lead suspect in a crime “offering” to tell prosecutors about evidence that may incriminate him, without allowing investigators to examine the evidence for themselves. No competent prosecutor would accept such an obviously flawed offer. It would be a joke anywhere but in the minds, apparently, of Eric Holder and Barack Obama.