Obama’s Watergate

By  | June 25, 2012 | American Spectator

A brazen, unprecedented claim of executive privilege in Fast and Furious.

Presidential claims of executive privilege are the haute cuisine of politics. Served in a covered dish, they are mysteries that tantalize, the aromas evoking everything that the mind can conjure. What is the president trying to hide? In Watergate terms, what did the president know and when did he know it?

Obama’s assertion of executive privilege to prevent the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee from gaining access to Justice Department documents on the “Fast and Furious” gun walking operation has already served the president’s main purpose. By asserting executive privilege, Obama has blocked criminal consequences for Attorney General Eric Holder from any contempt of Congress resolution that may be passed. More importantly (at least to him), Obama has successfully blocked the disclosure of the documents at least until the November election. It is barely within the realm of possibilities that the courts will resolve the executive privilege claim to the F&F papers before then.

Others have analyzed the nature of Obama’s privilege assertion but one very important aspect hasn’t drawn the attention it deserves: the breadth of Obama’s assertion which, quite evidently, goes beyond what previous presidents have done and what the courts have decided is within a president’s power.

There is a host of presidential “executive privileges,” outlined very well in the D.C. Circuit’s Clinton-era opinion in In re Sealed Case. Let’s exclude for the purposes of this analysis other privileges that may protect some of the documents Holder refuses to produce, such as those that may reveal the identities of covert informants. What we are left with — and neither we nor the House committee yet know how many there may be — are tens of thousands of documents that Obama is seeking to protect under the so-called “presidential communications privilege” and its derivative, the “deliberative process privilege.” Neither is absolute, and the latter is weaker, subject to what the court called a “greater ease” in overcoming it.

The matter before us is whether Obama’s claim is an over-reach, another assertion that this White House has greater powers than have been granted it by the Constitution, law, and precedent.

According to a May memo to the committee written by Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA), Operation Fast and Furious was conceived in the fall of 2009 by the Phoenix office of ATF. The idea was to allow illegal “straw man” purchases of weapons in the United States in the hopes that they could be traced to drug kingpins and financiers in Mexico. In January 2010, through the U.S. Attorney for Arizona, the program became an operation by the Justice Department’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, approved by senior Justice Department officials and granted higher funding. The program went horribly awry, without an apparent effort to trace the approximately 2,000 weapons to the higher ranks of Mexico’s drug kingdom.

In December 2010, Border Patrolman Brian Terry was killed and two of those weapons were recovered at the scene of the murder. The F&F program thus became the focus of the House Committee’s investigation.

The October 2011 House subpoena to the Attorney General demanded production of 22 categories of documents. Included among them were:

Read the full article here.

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  1. […] Original Page: http://johnmalcolm.me/2012/06/25/obamas-watergate/ Related Stories Save the Planet: Eat a Dog? As Google apologizes, bizarre Michelle Obama […]

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