Via The Washington Post:
Attorney general asks White House to exert executive privilege over Fast and Furious documents.
Just moments ago, according to Fox News, Obama has granted the request. This came after Issa issued a last-minute deadline in hopes of getting the documents last night.
Update by Doug: One of the talking points we’ve been hearing from the Obama Administration and their flacks in the mainstream media is that Operation Fast and Furious was just a low level operation that Eric Holder was only vaguely aware of and about which Obama knew nothing at all. Given this prevailing narrative, Senator Grassley of Iowa asked a key question today, via the Wall Street Journal:
Sen. Charles Grassley (R., Iowa) criticized the White House. “How can the president exert executive privilege over documents he’s supposedly never seen?” Mr. Grassley said.
Good Question. Executive privilege, as I’ve always understood it, is only supposed to apply to communication between the President and his high-level advisors and officials within the White House. How, then, can it be asserted for low level bureaucrats at the DOJ communicating amongst themselves? Obviously it extended well beyond mere staffers at Justice and Team Obama is hiding something that exposes the “Obama knew nothing about Operation Fast and Furious” meme as false. It simply makes no sense otherwise. What happened to all that hopey-changey talk in 2008 about the new era of openness where transparency would reign supreme in the Age of Obama?
Update II by Doug: I knew this had to be out there somewhere. Via Mediaite, here’s then Senator Obama on Bush’s Use of Executive Privilege in 2007:
Update III by Doug: (h/t wodiej) Courtesy of The Right Scoop, here’s a Democrat Congresswoman trumpeting the standard Democrat talking point which, evidently, is an all-purpose excuse to rationalize and all disasters caused by Obama’s policies: It’s Bush’s fault:
I would simply point out to Ms. Lee that even Eric Holder has retracted the absurd claim that the Bush Administration was responsible for Operation Fast and Furious.
Update IV by Doug: To see a copy of Holder’s letter to Obama, click here.
(Note: The original PDF has been pulled. Thanks to “John_Frank”for providing the new link)
Update V by Doug (h/t GW) Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey makes some of the same points I made in the first Update above, and suggests Obama’s use of Executive Privilage in this circumstance is Nixonian:
The assertion of executive privilege creates a huge problem for the White House. As Rep. Darrell Issa said today at the Fast & Furious hearing, Attorney General Eric Holder and other DoJ officials have repeatedly asserted that the White House and President Obama had no involvement or knowledge of the gun-running operation. If that was true, then executive privilege cannot apply. That only relates to the President, as that office is separately elected and accountable to the voters. Attorneys General answer to both the President and to Congress, and do not have executive privilege.
In other words, this could very well be analogous to the Watergate scandal. One has to wonder what those documents contain that would force the Obama administration to risk this kind of scandal by first refusing to comply with the subpoenas and then issuing a de facto admission that Obama himself was involved in the operation and/or its aftermath. The next venue for this scandal will be the federal courts, which is going to take a very dim view of executive privilege assertions to keep Congress from exercising its normal oversight functions for a federal agency rather than the White House itself.
After Obama’s actions last week, the Nixon analogy is looking more and more appropriate.
Update VI by Doug: Via The Hill, a spokeman for Speaker Boehner attempts to sort out what Obama’s decision to invoke executive privilage means:
“Until now, everyone believed that the decisions regarding ‘Fast and Furious’ were confined to the Department of Justice,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said in an email. “The White House decision to invoke executive privilege implies that White House officials were either involved in the ‘Fast and Furious’ operation or the cover-up that followed.
“The administration has always insisted that wasn’t the case,” Steel added. “Were they lying, or are they now bending the law to hide the truth?”