The media commentary about “executive privilege” makes your eyes glaze over. That’s intentional: When you are throwing sand in the public’s eyes, as the administration is in the Fast and Furious scandal, you want the talking heads droning on about the jurisprudence of “presidential communications” and “deliberative process.” Blather about the legal contours diverts your attention from the only question that really matters: Why?
Why is President Obama denying Congress and the public access to critical information about his administration’s part in a shockingly ill-conceived investigation that resulted in the murder of Brian Terry, a heroic federal Border Patrol agent and veteran U.S. Marine. And when I say “his administration’s part,” that, too, is intentional.
When the president intervened with an eleventh-hour privilege assertion as the House committee verged on citing his obstructive attorney general for contempt, the Obamedia storyline, naturally, was that Obama was protecting Holder. But if we know anything after a half-decade of closely watching Barack Obama, it is this: The One is in it for The One. The president invoked executive privilege because he is protecting himself.
On March 22, 2011, in an interview on Spanish-language television, President Obama, unbidden, brought up Fast and Furious in what were obviously considered remarks. He declared:
There have been problems, you know. I heard on the news about this story that — Fast and Furious, where allegedly guns were being run into Mexico, and ATF knew about it, but didn’t apprehend those who had sent it. Eric Holder has — the attorney general has been very clear that he knew nothing about this.
By the time the president volunteered these words, a cover-up was already well underway within his administration. Weeks earlier, on February 4, 2011 — nearly two months after Agent Terry was murdered — Holder’s Justice Department sent Congress a letter flatly denying that it had facilitated the illegal transfer of weapons to Mexico and insisting that its agencies always make “every effort to interdict weapons that have been purchased illegally and prevent their transportation to Mexico.” These representations, we now know, were outrageous falsehoods. But what is not well understood is just how outrageous.
In point of fact, top Justice Department officials certainly knew about the Fast and Furious investigation’s use of the fateful “gunwalking” tactic for many months before this letter was submitted — probably for over a year. They were banking on Fast and Furious as a great success story. But when Agent Terry was killed, they abruptly changed tack, first denying that gunwalking had happened and, when that failed, scrambling to distance the Justice Department’s political appointees and the White House from the inevitable murder and mayhem the gunwalking has caused — and will continue to cause. That was the burden of the president’s unsolicited comments: to maintain that “ATF knew” about the gunwalking but Holder did not . . . and Obama did not.
Indeed, on May 3, 2011, in astounding House testimony, Holder claimed that he’d only heard about Fast and Furious “for the first time probably over the last few weeks.” This not only contradicts Obama’s account, which has Holder discussing the case (and denying knowledge of its tactics) two months earlier; it defies everything we now know, including that Holder was planning to attend a triumphant Fast and Furious press conference back in 2010 — before Agent Terry’s death sent the Obama administration reeling.