With the full House of Representatives expected to vote on impeachment Wednesday, it seems appropriate to point out—again—how if Democrats’ public sentiments about impeachment were sincere, and not purely partisan, they’d have impeached Obama for the very same things… many, many, many times.
In addition to “abuse of power,” Democrats have charged President Trump with “obstruction of Congress” over the refusal of the White House to simply allow individuals to testify. The Trump White House, like his predecessors’, is very much aware of the separation of powers, and hasn’t given Democrats open season to call any witness they want to be grilled for hours without some pushback. This is technically how the system is supposed to work. Congress can subpoena witnesses and documents from the executive branch, but the executive branch can fight those in the courts. Democrats, not wanting to prolong impeachment and risk severe public blowback, have essentially argued that such refusals to comply with the first request merit “obstruction of Congress.”
So, let’s take a look at just a few examples of their golden boy Obama doing the exact same thing, and then we can ask ourselves “Why didn’t Congress impeach Obama over this?” If the same standard they’re applying to Trump today were applied to Obama, the latter would have been kicked to the curb.
5. Refusing to let the White House social secretary testify on party-crashers scandal
In 2009, two party-crashers got past the Secret Service during a state dinner, and managed to meet and shake hands with Barack Obama. How does such a breach in security happen? Congress wanted to know and opened up an investigation. For some reason, though, the White House wasn’t equally interested in investigating the breach, and when White House Social Secretary Desirée Rogers was asked to testify before Congress, the White House refused to let her, citing separation of powers as the reason. There wasn’t anything partisan about this investigation. In fact, Democrats were the ones running it. The refusal to comply with the investigation was bizarre, and legal scholars found the “separation of powers” excuse in this particular case to be rather dubious.
What was the Obama White House really trying to hide? Who knows? But, despite “obstructing Congress,” the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives didn’t launch an impeachment inquiry.
4. Refusing to provide documents revealing Justice Kagan’s Obamacare conflict of interest
Elana Kagan served as solicitor general for the Obama administration before being nominated and confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court. During her time as solicitor general, she was heavily involved in crafting a legal defense for Obamacare. This was significant as issues involving Obamacare were coming before the Supreme Court and federal law dictates that Supreme Court justices must recuse themselves when their impartiality “might reasonably be questioned,” such as with Elana Kagan and Obamacare.
Under 28 U.S.C. § 455(b)(3), a Supreme Court justice has a legal duty to recuse him- or herself from a proceeding if they have “served in governmental employment and in such capacity participated as counsel, adviser or material witness concerning the proceeding or expressed an opinion concerning the merits of the particular case in controversy.”
Of course, with a closely divided Supreme Court, Obama couldn’t afford to have Kagan recuse herself from Obamacare-related cases. So, when the House Judiciary Committee requested documents and interviews to get a clear understanding of her role relating to Obamacare while she was solicitor general, the Obama/Holder Justice Department refused to comply.
Kagan ultimately never recused herself from Obamacare-related cases. Imagine if the tables were turned.
3. Refusing to allow the political director for the 2014 midterms to testify
In 2014, Democratic operatives were concerned that the Obama White House wasn’t doing enough to help in the forthcoming midterms. So, Obama launched the White House Office of Political Strategy and Outreach to do more for their candidates. Of course, this raised legitimate concerns that Obama had just created a White House office specifically for political activity.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee launched an investigation in order to make sure the White House was complying with civil services laws that were designed to prevent executive branch employees from engaging in political activity. They subpoenaed David Simas, the director of the Office of Political Strategy and Outreach, but the Obama White House refused to allow him testify, and actually claimed Simas was “immune from congressional compulsion to testify on matters relating to his official duties” and thus would not appear before the committee.
2. Not allowing Ben Rhodes to testify on Iran Nuclear Deal
The Iran Nuclear Deal was so bad Obama didn’t even try to get Senate ratification for it, and much of the negotiations were done without Congress being informed. When congressional Republicans wanted to get answers after Ben Rhodes (the failed novelist turned Obama speechwriter turned top foreign policy adviser to Obama) let it spill to the New York Times that the administration relied on a false narrative to sell the Iran deal to the public, the White House wouldn’t let him testify, using the “separation of powers” excuse. “Specifically, the appearance of a senior presidential adviser before Congress threatens the independence and autonomy of the president, as well as his ability to receive candid advice and counsel in the discharge of his constitutional duties,” explained White House counsel Neil Eggleston. This was after the White House previously claimed they wouldn’t hide behind executive privilege.
1. Eric Holder refuses to provide subpoenaed Fast & Furious documents
The investigation of the botched Fast & Furious investigation is perhaps the most significant example of the Obama administration using executive privilege to justify their refusal to cooperate with a congressional investigation. Attorney General Eric Holder, Obama’s wingman, refused to provide subpoenaed documents to the House Oversight and Reform Committee. The blatant attempts by the administration to resist cooperating with the investigation ultimately led to a historic vote to hold Attorney General Holder in criminal contempt.
Matt Margolis is the author of Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy and the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis