This situation wreaks. Obama is doing his utmost to cover-up this Fast and Furious debacle.
Further – “Mr. Obama’s assertion of executive privilege contrasted with his criticism as a senator of the Bush administration’s use of the privilege. Then-Sen. Obama said the Bush White House was ‘hiding’ behind the privilege to avoid ‘coming clean’ during a dispute over White House documents over the firings of U.S. attorneys. Mr. Bush’s then-attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, resigned under pressure over the firings.”
Read full article from WSJ below:
A standoff between Republicans and the Obama administration over a botched gun-trafficking operation escalated Wednesday, with a House committee voting to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress.
The White House asserted executive privilege over gun-trafficking-probe documents sought by congressional Republicans, throwing into uncertainty a possible vote to sanction Attorney General Eric Holder.
The party-line vote came hours after President Barack Obama, for the first time, asserted executive privilege, aiming to block Republicans from gaining access to Justice Department documents about the operation.
House Republican leaders said they would bring the contempt measure to the House floor next week. If the full House votes to support it, then a contempt citation could be referred to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, an appointee of Mr. Obama’s who is in Mr. Holder’s chain of command.
If it ends up in the courts, the dispute would raise constitutional questions about the power of the executive branch vs. Congress. Previous such battles have ended before reaching that stage with some kind of truce between the sides.
The battle centers on a 2009-10 operation, dubbed Fast and Furious, that was run by Arizona-based agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, aimed at building a case against suspected smugglers of firearms to Mexico. The agents, using a tactic called gun-walking, allowed suspected smugglers to buy about 2,000 firearms, without intercepting the weapons.
Some of the guns have since turned up at crime scenes on both sides of the border, including at a December 2010 shootout that killed a U.S. border agent.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) have led an inquiry into Fast and Furious for more than a year, holding hearings with ATF agents who said their objections to the tactics were ignored. Mr. Issa heads the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which voted on the contempt measure Wednesday.
The documents at issue largely detail internal deliberations last year as Justice officials tried to respond to congressional questions about the operation. Republicans say the documents may show whether high-level officials were aware of Fast and Furious early on and whether there is a coverup. The White House says such documents involving internal deliberations traditionally haven’t been subject to a congressional subpoena.
The controversy has ebbed and flowed until reaching a flash point this week. The two sides appeared as if they might reach an agreement Tuesday night. Messrs. Holder and Issa met for 20 minutes, but the talks became a game of chicken, with each side saying it insisted the other act first to resolve the standoff.
On June 19, Attorney General Eric Holder wrote to President Barack Obama, calling on the president to assert executive privilege over documents in the Fast and Furious probe.
On June 20, Deputy Attorney General James Cole wrote to Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, to tell him that the president had asserted executive privilege.
Mr. Issa Wednesday rejected the executive-privilege claim, saying it “only applies to materials that directly pertain to communications with the president and his senior advisers.”
White House spokesman Eric Schultz said Mr. Obama’s reasoning was similar to that of former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Mr. Schultz said the other presidents “protected the same category of documents we’re protecting today,” meaning after-the-fact internal materials.
Mr. Bush claimed executive privilege six times, and Mr. Clinton is believed to have claimed it 14 times. Under the doctrine of executive privilege, presidents have sought to withhold from Congress documents relating to internal deliberations of the executive branch.
Mr. Holder said that “from the beginning, Chairman Issa and certain members of the Committee have made unsubstantiated allegations first, then scrambled for facts to try to justify them later. That might make for good political theater, but it does little to uncover the truth.”
If the matter were referred to the U.S. attorney, it isn’t clear Congress could compel him to prosecute the attorney general. In the Bush administration, the House voted to hold White House officials including White House counsel Harriet Miers in contempt in a similar documents dispute, and the Bush-appointed attorney general ordered the U.S. attorney to disregard it. The matter was eventually settled with the production of documents.
Key dates in the controversy over the Fast and Furious gun probe carried out by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
- November 2009-December 2010: ATF agents in Arizona use a tactic called gun-walking to allow suspected smugglers to buy about 2,000 firearms without intercepting the weapons. Many of them end up in Mexico and are used in crimes.
- December 2010: Brian Terry, a U.S. border agent, is killed in a firefight with suspected smugglers near the Arizona-Mexico border. A firearm traced to Fast and Furious operation is found at the scene.
- January 2011: Sen. Charles Grassley asks Justice Department about gun-walking tactics that could have led to Terry’s murder.
- February 2011: Justice Department in a letter to Sen. Grassley incorrectly says ATF doesn’t allow gun-walking.
- June-July 2011: ATF whistleblowers provide testimony describing objections to gun-walking tactics disregarded by supervisors.
- October 2011: Rep. Darrell Issa issues subpoena for documents, later subject of standoff with Justice Department.
- December 2011: Justice Department withdraws earlier letter to Sen. Grassley, saying it relied on incorrect information from ATF.
- June 2012: Rep. Issa’s committee votes to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt over his refusal to supply some documents.
Sources: Justice Department, Congressional Record, WSJ research
Other attorneys general have been caught in similar disputes. The House oversight committee voted to hold Janet Reno, attorney general under Mr. Clinton, in contempt. The full House didn’t take up the matter, and the dispute was resolved when documents were produced. Democrats drafted a report recommending contempt against Attorney General Michael Mukasey in the latter days of the Bush administration but didn’t go further after he turned over documents.
At Wednesday’s hearing, Republican lawmakers said Mr. Obama’s assertion of executive privilege contrasted with his criticism as a senator of the Bush administration’s use of the privilege. Then-Sen. Obama said the Bush White House was “hiding” behind the privilege to avoid “coming clean” during a dispute over White House documents over the firings of U.S. attorneys. Mr. Bush’s then-attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, resigned under pressure over the firings.
With Democrats firmly backing Mr. Holder, it is unlikely the contempt fight will affect the remainder of his tenure through the end of the current administration in January.
On the premiere of The D.C. Bureau, senior campaign adviser David Axelrod predicts that President Barack Obama will be outspent by his opponents in attempt to win re-election. (Photo: AP)
Mr. Holder has increasingly been on the sidelines of some of the biggest national-security fights. He led the administration’s effort to close the Guantanamo Bay prison, and he pushed to try the plotters of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks in civilian court in New York. He ended up badly bruised in both efforts, after the White House surrendered to Republican objections.
Both sides sought to gain partisan advantage from the fight. The Republican National Committee is using a “Fire Eric Holder” website to seek campaign donations. White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer accused Republicans of embarking on a “purely political” effort rather than focusing on legislation to create jobs. – Evan Perez