The House committee investigating Fast and Furious has received more than 7,600 documents from the Justice Department, but Republican lawmakers say none addresses who approved the gunrunning probe, who failed to stop it before a U.S. Border Patrol agent was killed and why department officials initially lied to Congress about it.
Now the panel has its sights set on an additional 1,300 pages of documents it believes will answer those questions and also expose a political cover-up at Justice…
The committee said it is concerned about and wants to see documents outlining continued complaints by whistleblowers that they faced retaliation after testifying about the program; allegations by the former acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) that Justice Department officials sought to protect political appointees; and the nine-month delay before the department formally withdrew its false denial to Congress about allowing guns to flow over the border to Mexico.
The Republicans shamelessly turned what should be a routine matter into a pointless constitutional confrontation. And the White House responded as most administrations do at some point: it invoked executive privilege to make a political problem go away…
Mr. Issa has relished making this investigation a political fight. Last week, he seemed to bait Mr. Holder when he said in a statement, “the Obama administration has not asserted executive privilege or any other valid privilege,” so it could not refuse to produce the materials…
Executive privilege cannot and should not be allowed to shield the executive branch from regular, valuable Congressional oversight. There was no reason the House committee and the Justice Department could not work out a deal to produce the documents requested, or some form of them. Instead, they show again that every issue, large or small, can be turned into ammunition for political combat.
Executive privilege has legitimate uses — and illegitimate uses. For instance, it is not intended to be used merely to protect the president from political embarrassment stemming from grievous errors in judgment by members of his cabinet or officers of the departments over which they preside. There is good reason to believe that in this case the privilege is being abused.
Fast and Furious became public knowledge only when dissatisfied agents within the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives blew the whistle on the program after the murder of Brian Terry, a Border Patrol agent gunned down by criminals wielding semiautomatic rifles, at least two of which were sold to arms traffickers with the foreknowledge of the Justice Department as part of the program. Congress has the right to make inquiries of the executive branch in the course of undertaking its constitutional lawmaking duties — for example, while studying whether to pass laws forbidding U.S. law-enforcement agencies to knowingly allow bloodthirsty drug cartels to acquire firearms. In such situations, executive privilege is by no means absolute. The privilege is qualified and contingent. One limiting factor is an allegation of official misconduct, and there is reason to believe that official misconduct has occurred in this case, not least Holder’s conflicting and inconsistent accounts of the case and the presence of evidence suggesting that his accounts have been in some part untrue. Indeed, the claim of executive privilege will only increase the sense that Holder has been more dishonest in his congressional testimony than is already evident.
Lawyers said Tuesday that whatever the law may allow, judges might be reluctant to referee the Fast and Furious executive privilege fight because of the tens of thousands of pages of documents in dispute.
“It’s not like the Nixon tapes, which was defined, finite and you could get your arms around,” Brand said.
What does seem certain is that such a legal dispute would not be definitively resolved by the time Obama is up for reelection in November, so the verdict at that time will have to come from the court of public opinion — not the actual courts.
“It won’t get resolved in six months,” Tiefer said confidently. “These things take longer.”
I posed a question before Holder was confirmed that seems a lot more pressing now: How would Holder fare under the criteria for attorney general fitness that Democrats applied to Alberto Gonzales? Recall that Attorney General Gonzales was run out of town by Democrats and their media minions based on (a) a trumped up scandal that was not a crime (presidents do not need a reason to remove U.S. attorneys); (b) a scandal that was trumped up because what Bush did, comparatively, was child’s play (he fired eight U.S. attorneys whereas Clinton, for no cause other than patronage, fired 92 of them); and (c) the allegation that Gonzales and his subordinates had provided false information to Congress — and when it emerged that this provision of false information was probably not intentional, Senate Democrats inveighed that Gonzales still had to go because an attorney general, by their lights, is unfit to serve if lawmakers cannot trust that he is informing Congress accurately, regardless of whether this is due to mendacity or incompetence.
When I raised this in connection with Holder, it was due to an actual, outrageous scandal he already had under his belt when Obama nominated him: the Marc Rich pardon, an episode of sheer corruption in which Holder was a central figure and as to which, as I have demonstrated, he provided Congress with testimony that, to put it charitably, was grossly inaccurate. But that was nothing compared to Fast and Furious, which involves the reckless provision of over a thousand weapons to murderous foreign drug cartels, the foreseeable resultant murders of scores of people, the killing of a federal law enforcement officer, multiple instances of providing false information to the investigating congressional committee, and — we now know — the obstruction of Congress by reliance on a specious “privilege” with no basis in law . . . certainly not as a rationale for stonewalling Congress.
If Holder were a Republican — well, never mind: If Holder were a Republican, he’d never have survived the FALN pardons, never mind Marc Rich; and a Republican president would never have nominated him because he’d know the Democrats would never spinelessly roll over and confirm him.
Via the Right Scoop.