Judicial Watch sued the Obama administration to obtain documents relating to the Fast and Furious scandal. Despite the Freedom of Information Act, the Justice Department declined to produce the documents. Judicial Watch obtained a federal court order forcing DoJ to produce a Vaughn index of all of the covered documents.
On Wednesday, just hours before the court-imposed deadline, DoJ produced the Vaughn index.
While Judicial Watch says that even the Vaughn index that DoJ did produce is incomplete, it still includes a great deal of interesting information about the dangerous gun running scandal, which has been connected to the murders of two American agents and numerous innocent Mexican civilians.
The document details the Attorney General Holder’s personal involvement in managing the Justice Department’s strategy on media and Congressional investigations into the Fast and Furious scandal. Notably, the document discloses that emails between Attorney General Holder and his wife Sharon Malone – as well as his mother – are being withheld under an extraordinary claim of executive privilege as well as a dubious claim of deliberative process privilege under the Freedom of Information Act. The “First Lady of the Justice Department” is a physician and not a government employee.
Judicial Watch has not had ample time to review the index, which describes more than 15,000 documents. Here is a summary of what the watchdog group has learned so far.
- Numerous emails that detail Attorney General Holder’s direct involvement in crafting talking points, the timing of public disclosures, and handling Congressional inquiries in the Fast and Furious matter.
- President Obama has asserted executive privilege over nearly 20 email communications between Holder and his spouse Sharon Malone. The administration also claims that the records are also subject to withholding under the “deliberative process” exemption. This exemption ordinarily exempts from public disclosure records that could chill internal government deliberations.
- Numerous entries detail DOJ’s communications (including those of Eric Holder) concerning the White House about Fast and Furious.
- The scandal required the attention of virtually every top official of the DOJ and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). Communications to and from the United States Ambassador to Mexico about the Fast and Furious matter are also described.
- Many of the records are already publicly available such as letters from Congress, press clips, and typical agency communications. Ordinarily, these records would, in whole or part, be subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. Few of the records seem to even implicate presidential decision-making and advice that might be subject to President Obama’s broad and unprecedented executive privilege claim.