Thursday, June 21, 2012

Executive Power Grab on F&F Documents

by Alana Goodman

Because nothing says “I have nothing to hide” like an executive power grab to block investigators from looking at government documents:

President Barack Obama has asserted executive privilege over documents sought by a House committee investigating the botched Fast and Furious gun-running sting, according to a letter to the panel Wednesday from Deputy Attorney Gen. James Cole.

The move means the Department of Justice can withhold the documents from the House Oversight Committee, which was scheduled to consider a contempt measure Wednesday against [Attorney General Eric] Holder.

The immediate question raised by this sudden assertion of executive people is whether President Obama was involved in the scandal. Why would he put himself at risk of serious political backlash if this was all about simply protecting Holder — who is about to be charged with contempt of Congress anyway? And if there is something damaging about Obama or top White House officials in those papers, maybe that explains why Holder still has a job despite the growing calls for his resignation.

The Department of Justice and the Obama administration is going to try to defend this as a necessary response to a baldly political witch hunt by House Republicans. But will the public buy that at this point? Not only are there numerous signs of behind-the-scenes shadiness that we already know about — the timing inconsistencies, Holder’s misstatements — there’s also the death of a U.S. Border Patrol agent at the top of the story. Is the Obama administration actually going to argue that the family of Agent Brian Terry doesn’t deserve to know the full circumstances surrounding his death?

Obama’s assertion of executive privilege turned this from a political back-and-forth between the DOJ and a congressional committee into a full-blown scandal ensnaring the president. What exactly is hiding in those papers that pushed Obama to take this risk?

Alana Goodman


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