When a White House dumps documents late on a Friday, it’s not because they aren’t newsworthy. It’s usually because they’re embarrassing, or potentially incriminating. Yesterday we got an almost perfect example of the art when the Obama administration finally released selected documents on the Fast & Furious scandal that prove “extensive” communications between the ATF’s field office and the White House on the deadly project:
Late Friday, the White House turned over new documents in the Congressional investigation into the ATF “Fast and Furious” gunwalking scandal.
The documents show extensive communications between then-ATF Special Agent in Charge of the Phoenix office Bill Newell – who led Fast and Furious – and then-White House National Security Staffer Kevin O’Reilly. Emails indicate the two also spoke on the phone. Such detailed, direct communications between a local ATF manager in Phoenix and a White House national security staffer has raised interest among Congressional investigators looking into Fast and Furious. Newell has said he and O’Reilly are long time friends. …
Among the documents produced: an email in which ATF’s Newell sent the White House’s O’Reilly an “arrow chart reflecting the ultimate destination of firearms we intercepted and/or where the guns ended up.” The chart shows arrows leading from Arizona to destinations all over Mexico.
In response, O’Reilly wrote on Sept. 3, 2010 “The arrow chart is really interesting – and – no surprise – implies at least that different (Drug Trafficking Organizations) in Mexico have very different and geographically distinct networks in the US for acquiring guns. Did last year’s TX effort develop a similar graphic?”
In other words, the White House knew that the guns had gone over the border, and treated it like an academic exercise. O’Reilly apparently never asked in his capacity as a national security adviser, “What the hell were you thinking in allowing the guns to get across the border?” Instead, O’Reilly wondered if a similar operation in Texas produced a cool map, too.
It sounds as if the Obama administration was on board the idea to allow guns to transit the border, and at the very least shows that no one can claim surprise at the outcome. The White House’s lawyer tried to spin it anyway, writing to the Oversight Committee that “none of the communications between ATF and the White House revealed the investigative law enforcement tactics at issue in your inquiry, let alone any decision to allow guns to ‘walk.'” That may be true — at least as far the documents the White House released, but that’s not all of the communications:
However, the chief counsel to President Barack Obama, Kathryn Ruemmler, indicated that the White House was withholding an unspecified number of internal e-mails exchanged among three National Security Staff aides.
“These internal NSS emails are not included in the enclosed documents because the [Executive Office of the President] has significant confidentiality interests in its internal communications,” Ruemmler wrote in a letter to House Oversight & Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). The letter, posted here, was obtained Friday by POLITICO.
The latest batch of 102 pages of records partially duplicated information previously sent to Congress and didn’t appear to include any smoking guns showing that White House officials were aware that the operation involved allowing hundreds or thousands of guns to flow essentially unimpeded from the U.S. to Mexican drug cartels.
This is rather amusing. Three years ago, a Democratic House sued to get Karl Rove and Harriet Miers to testify over the termination of US Attorneys, who are political appointments that serve at the pleasure of the President, and rejected the notion that executive privilege applied to such executive-branch personnel decisions. Now we have an ATF operation that armed drug cartels and resulted in hundreds of murders from guns supplied by the US government, including the murder of a Border Patrol agent here in the US — and Democrats think that should be covered by executive privilege.
Something stinks at the White House, and the lawyers are circling the wagons to keep Congress from finding it.