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A flurry of news stories has followed President Obama’s decision to relent on his claim of executive privilege and release more than 64,000 pages of Department of Justice documents concerning “Operation Fast and Furious” that were demanded by Congressional investigators five years ago.
Some of these stories deal with the legal arguments concerning the merits of the executive privilege claim in this case and the political strategy behind releasing the documents now. Some remind us that former Attorney General Eric Holder was held in contempt by Congress in 2012 for his refusal to comply on this matter, in his only attempt to defeat a Congressional demand for records or testimony (as opposed to FOIA requests, which have been routinely ignored). Holder managed to see to it that the Justice Department could delay, delay, delay for a good long time before Congressional investigators could start picking through documents related to the spectacularly failed gun operation that resulted in countless heinous crimes being committed with guns provided to Mexican criminals by American taxpayers.
But now that about half of the documents have been examined, I hope the focus will be on the content. The wording in some of the internal memos is absolutely stunning and reveals why the DOJ wanted to make sure they didn’t see the light of day.
Investigators have complained that the DOJ has still failed to comply in full –– they should call it “Operation Slow and Lugubrious” — offering only a fraction of the documents at issue. Even so, we can see now that memos flew back and forth within the DOJ — yes, that exchange could be called “fast and furious” — concerning the need for withholding these documents from Congress. You can almost see the wink-wink-nudge-nudge going on. And though Holder tried to give the impression before Congress that he didn’t know much about all this, Chairman Darrell Issa of the House oversight committee says, “It looks very much like he’s cc’d on everything.”
“After four years of objection and delay,” Chairman Issa said in a statement, “President Obama has finally been forced to give up additional documents related to why senior Justice Department officials in his administration lied to Congress. What we need from the President is an explanation of why he felt these documents couldn’t be seen by the American people and why there has been no real accountability for the officials involved. Was he protecting the failed gun operation or the cover-up?”
The White House had no immediate response to a request for comment, but the memos themselves would seem to provide the answer: “Uh, both!”