Obama Claims Executive Privilege On Fast And Furious
June 20, 2012 4 Comments
In a curious move, President Obama is now claiming executive privilege concerning the Fast and Furious program. You’ll recall that Fast and Furious saw the government hand guns over to Mexican drug cartels. The government was going to track the guns but in the end several hundred Mexicans are dead and one border patrol agent is dead. Attorney General Eric Holder is facing a contempt of Congress vote today because he refuses to hand over documents in this case. Throughout Holder has been less than forthcoming, claiming he didn’t know about Fast and Furious when documents show he did. Now comes this curious executive privilege claim.
Generally speaking executive privilege is limited to national security concerns. In the 90′s Bill Clinton tried to claim executive privilege to prevent his aides from being deposed in civil matters and he lost. That Obama is trying to claim executive privilege here is especially odd since supposedly he’s never seen the documents the House is after. Could Obama be implicating himself in Fast and Furious? Did the President know about this program all along? Perhaps. More likely though Obama is simply trying to protect Eric Holder and demonize Republicans at the same time.
The House has a legitimate oversight claim in the Fast and Furious case. They have a right to investigate the attorney general and his conduct for which the House has appropriated money. Holder continues to refuse to provide the Congress with documents, none of which are truly privileged. There is no national security concern here. While Fast and Furious involves a foreign country, that country was not involved in the program. Obama knows nothing about the case supposedly, thus there is no legitimate claim of executive privilege. In 2007 then Sen. Obama criticized the Bush administration for hiding behind executive privilege. Now he’s doing the same thing in an even less legitimate case.
Rep. Issa and his committee should vote today to hold Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for failing to provide documents per the committee’s subpoena. The full Congress should also vote to hold Holder in contempt. Suit must be filed against the Obama administration concerning its claim of executive privilege. Executive privilege is not something found within the Constitution. If it exists at all, it’s perhaps limited to discussions the President has with his political staff and in national security cases. Where it does not and should not apply is to cabinet members who don’t want to implicate themselves in a botched or corrupt program. It seems Obama has given us a good case where the Court can further limit the notion of executive privilege.
Where does this leave us going forward? Politically this isn’t going to help Obama at all. Despite a favorable press, many people are going to look at Fast and Furious and wonder why Holder won’t turn over documents. They’ll further wonder why Obama is exerting executive privilege. They’ll wonder what they’re hiding, what they’re covering up. Politically that looks really bad. But of course they must be calculating this risk. Whatever is in those documents must be worse than looking like they’re trying to cover something up. Let the speculation begin on what’s in those documents. Whatever is in there must implicate Holder. It’s open speculation season now.