The Plot Thickens: Obama Asserts Executive Privilege to Block Fast & Furious Disclosures
The Obama administration has a narrative about Fast & Furious. The Wall Street Journal obligingly reported it this morning, as follows:
The gun-walking tactics in Fast and Furious turned up in earlier ATF cases, during the Bush administration. When they were uncovered by Justice officials in the Obama administration, a top Justice official raised concerns with ATF officials, according to Justice documents released last year. But the officials never alerted Mr. Holder, didn't do enough to prevent similar cases and weren't aware the operation was under way until months later, according to Justice documents.
Mr. Holder, in a letter last week to Mr. Issa, said, "The record in this matter reflects that until allegations about the inappropriate tactics used in Fast and Furious were made public, department leadership was unaware of those tactics."
There are a variety of reasons to be skeptical of this version of events. To name only two:
(a) there were wiretaps in the F&F investigation, and when the government seeks a wiretap, federal law requires it to explain what investigative tactics have been used in the case, an explanation that is vetted by top DOJ officials because the government cannot apply for the wiretap without the approval of the attorney general or his designee (a high Justice Department official) -- it seems highly unlikely, assuming DOJ complied with wiretap law, that top Justice Department officials did not know about the gun-walking tactic until late in the game; and
(b) the gun-walking tactic -- which in F&F involved providing well over a thousand firearms to violent criminals -- was shocking, and it is hard to believe that if "Justice officials" knew enough to raise their concerns with the ATF brass, they failed to alert Attorney General Holder or follow through to make sure ATF and the U.S. attorney's office -- both arms of the Justice Department -- stopped the tactic.
But let's put all that aside for argument's sake and assume that the Obama administration's narrative is true. If this is what really happened, Attorney General Holder does not deserve our condemnation; he deserves a commendation. And if this is really what happened, what are the chances that the administration that can't shovel national defense secrets out fast enough to the New York Times would withhold a paper trail that covers Mr. Holder in glory?
The issue in F&F is not the withholding of DOJ documents. The issue is the reckless provision of an arsenal fit for an army to violent cartels, quite predictably resulting in the murders of possibly hundreds of people including at least one United States law enforcement officer. That is the reason Congress did not go away, as it usually does, when the Justice Department ignores or slow-walks demands for information. What happened here is too grave to take "no" for an answer.
If this were a Republican administration, the press would long ago have made the Department's obstruction of Congress a five-alarm scandal. Bush administration Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was forced to resign over a matter that was less than frivolous compared to F&F. The press is in the tank for Obama, so Holder & Co. have relatively smooth sailing -- even when it became clear that they provided blatantly false information to Congress about the use of the gun-walking tactic. Chairman Darrell Issa (R., CA) has been heroic in pursuing this investigation at a time when Republicans have been generally feckless in challenging Obama's abuses of power.
But while Holder has been in the eye of what little storm there was, it has always been the case that F&F is Obama's scandal. Holder has never done anything other than implement Obama's policies and manage relations with Congress as Obama wished them to be conducted. Obviously, the hope was that if DOJ was intransigent enough, the House would get frustrated and bored and move on to other things. That hasn't happened, thanks to Rep. Issa and his colleagues. But the focus on Holder and withheld documents should not obscure that F&F is really about Obama and the murders of a federal agent and hundreds of others -- very likely, to promote the Left's political argument that American Second Amendment rights are the cause of international violence.
Because Issa has been dogged, we have now gotten down to brass tacks. The prospect of the attorney general's being held in contempt finally prompted the president -- the only official in the government empowered to assert executive privilege -- to claim that the documents sought are being withheld at his (Obama's) direction, based on his constitutional authority.
Executive privilege is a vestige of Richard Nixon's desperate effort to conceal criminality in the Watergate scandal. The last thing Obama wanted to do, with the November election looming, was resort to the Nixon strategy (which, we should recall, failed in the end). And, again, if the Obama administration's story was true, they would want to release the documents that support it.
They really don't want you to see what is in those documents.
Thumbnail image courtesy shutterstock / Jag_cz