The Campaign Spot

The Obama of 2008 Would Have Cared About ‘Fast & Furious’

I am back, and so is the Morning Jolt:

Fast & Furious: One More Example of How Obama Is Exactly the Guy His Critics Said He Was

The Barack Obama sold to us in 2008 would have cared about how something like Fast and Furious happened on his watch. The fact that Obama invoked executive privilege to protect his guys at the Department of Justice is just one more big red flashing-neon sign that when he said things like, “Make no mistake, we need to end an era in Washington where accountability’s been absent, oversight has been overlooked,” it was . . . well, just words. (That was on October 1, 2008.)

I’m one of those guys who thought that during the whole replaced-U.S.-Attorneys brouhaha in late 2006, the president ought to at least give a reason for replacing a U.S. Attorney. The attorney, Congress, and the public don’t have to like the reason, but considering the power and responsibility for those offices, the president ought to at least explain why a head federal prosecutor is being replaced, a process that presumably temporarily scrambles cases, investigations, and prosecutions.

Anyway, if you think Bush using his Constitutional authority to replace U.S. Attorneys is a giant scandal, but shrug your shoulders at the federal government sending guns to Mexico, where drug cartels use them to kill a U.S. Border Patrol agent, then you are a hopeless partisan hack who is literally willing to overlook murder to advance your political agenda.

This weekend, our Michael Walsh took to the pages of the New York Post to lay out what we know about Fast & Furious, and what we need to know. A key point:

By embracing his doomed attorney general, Obama has now forfeited plausible deniability and tied Fast and Furious directly to the White House, a decision he’s likely to regret — especially since he continues to assert that nobody in the West Wing were aware of the operation. Indeed, back in March 2011, Obama claimed he’d first learned of Fast and Furious “on the news” and said that Holder knew nothing.

Yeah, right. A document dump in early December last year proved conclusively that Holder’s chain-of-command subordinates knew all about it. Indeed, that knowledge now lies at the center of the contempt citation and Obama’s executive privilege claim — and of the mystery: how high does this go?

Holder got slapped with a contempt charge by the House Oversight Committee owing to his refusal to turn over a tranche of subpoenaed documents relating to the now-notorious letter of Feb. 4, 2011, in which Justice categorically denied any knowledge of, or involvement with, Fast and Furious. This despite hair-raising whistleblower stories from brave ATF agents describing their feelings of helplessness as batches of weapons were transferred from the US to Mexico right under their noses — and being ordered not to interfere.

But that letter, by assistant attorney general Ronald Weich — who conveniently announced his sudden retirement earlier this month — was “withdrawn” last December. “Facts have come to light during the course of this investigation that indicate the Feb. 4 letter contains inaccuracies,” wrote a Justice bigwig, wiping the egg from his face.

Obama’s executive privilege declaration covers the documents that directly pertain to the aftermath of the Feb. 4 letter, as Justice internally debated — according to Holder — “how to respond to congressional and related media inquiries into that operation.”

How to deal with potential perjury or obstruction charges is more like it.

Meanwhile, on the Sunday shows . . .

A letter sent to President Barack Obama will outline why his invocation of executive privilege over documents sought by lawmakers investigating the botched Fast and Furious gun-running sting is either “overbroad, or simply wrong,” House Oversight Committee chairman Darrell Issa said Sunday.

The letter will be sent later Sunday or Monday, Issa, R-California, told ABC’s “This Week.” The oversight committee voted Wednesday to refer a potential contempt citation against Attorney General Eric Holder to the full House, which is set to vote this week.

“We’re past that part of the discovery, relative to contempt,” Issa said. “We know that there’s a lot of wrong things and we want to fix it. What we’re talking about now, when we get lied to, when the American people get lied to, there can’t be oversight when there’s lying.

“The Supreme Court held pretty clearly there cannot be executive privilege over a criminal cover-up,” he said. ” . . . Lying to Congress is a crime. We have every right to see documents to say, ‘Did you know?’ ‘What did you know?’ including even the president.”

However, he added, “If we get documents that do show, cast some doubt, or allow us to understand this, we’ll at least delay contempt and continue the process. We only broke off negotiations when we got a flat refusal when we asked to get information needed for our investigation.”

If the documents say what Holder claims they say, “we might dismiss contempt,” he said.

Gee, if Holder is telling the truth, that would seem to be a strong motivation to disclose the withheld documents, huh? Send the document to Issa and the committee, it checks out, the contempt charge goes away . . . Is the administration really going to tell us that Holder is taking the contempt charge out of principle? That he is sitting on evidence that verifies what he says, enhances his credibility, and defends the good name of him, his staff and the administration, and that he won’t reveal it out of dedication to the legally iffy notion of “deliberative process privilege”?

Or is it just that Holder is lying? Again?


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