The Corner

Cui Bono?

If we didn’t know that the paper trail of Operation Fast and Furious leads directly to the White House — and we did — this morning’s announcement that the Obama administration, at Eric Holder’s explicit request, is exerting executive privilege over the documents subpoenaed by Darrell Issa’s House Oversight Committee ought to assuage all doubts. 

Dear Mr. President,

I am writing to request that you assert executive privilege with respect to confidential Department of Justice (“Department”) documents that are responsive to the subpoena issued by the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform of the United States House of Representatives (“Committee”) on October 25, 2011. The subpoena relates to the Committee’s investigation into Operation Fast and Furious, a law enforcement operation conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (“ATF”) and the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona to stem the illegal flow of firearms from the United States to drug cartels in Mexico (“Fast and Furious”). The Committee has scheduled a meeting for June 20, 2012, to vote on a resolution holding me in contempt of Congress for failing to comply with the subpoena.

The letter is dated yesterday, June 19.

But this is more than simply a yelp for help for a gangland underling about to face the Law: it’s a plea to Obama to save himself. Because, in Holder’s own words:

The Committee has made clear that its contempt resolution will be limited to internal Department “documents from after February 4, 2011, related to the Department’s response to Congress.” Letter for Eric H. Holder, Jr., Attorney General, from Darrell E. Issa, Chairman, Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, U.S. House of Representatives at 1-2 (June 13, 2012) (“Chairman’s Letter”). I am asking you to assert executive privilege over these documents. They were not generated in the course of the conduct of Fast and Furious. Instead, they were created after the investigative tactics at issue in that operation had terminated and in the course of the Department’s deliberative process concerning how to respond to congressional and related media inquiries into that operation.

Translation: this is all about politics, and protecting the president from what Holder’s Justice Department was trying to do in the wake of its revocation of the infamous February 4, 2011, letter from Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich, who recently announced his own defenestration, that flatly denied that the Feds “knowingly allowed the sale of assault weapons” to straw buyers acting on behalf of Mexican drug cartels.

My New York Post column today, written late last night after Holder refused to turn over the documents to Issa, fills in much of the background on this fast-moving story.

But one thing is already clear: By asserting executive privilege, Obama has now forced F&F into the mainstream media, which has been doing its damnedest to block this story from the public. Those days are now over. Let the Nixon administration nostalgia begin; at least no one died in Watergate.

UPDATE: Thanks to my friends Jim Vicevich and Dennis Prager for having me on their influential radio shows this morning to discuss F&F, and to whoever selects the top stories over at Real Clear Politics, which has consistently cited my work for the Post and NRO on this subject. 

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