The Executive “Easy Button” is getting a real work out in our nation’s capital, this time the benefactors being Attorney General Eric Holder and his Department of Justice who are sitting on tens of thousands of documents related to the botched Fast & Furious gun running operation; documents which have been subpoenaed by the House Oversight and Government Operations Committee, chaired by Darrell Issa(R).
In a “help me or I’m going down in flames” type letter to Obama, Holder, the nations top law enforcement official, laid out his arguments in support of the executive privilege claim:
“I am very concerned that the compelled production to Congress of internal Executive Branch documents generated in the course of the deliberative process … would have significant damaging consequences that would inhibit the candor of White House deliberations now and in the future.”
So on Wednesday the White House, at Holders request, did in fact defy the Republican led House of representatives by invoking an Executive Privilege, thereby protecting the internal communications. The privilege allows the White House to argue that some private communications between the president and members of his administration cannot be divulged to Congress under any circumstances.
Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner said:
“Until now, everyone believed that the decisions regarding ‘Fast and Furious’ were confined to the Department of Justice. The White House’s 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 action immediately prompted Issa’s committee to re-green light plans to bring Holder up on charges of contempt of Congress. The contempt vote had been put on the back burner as Holder sandbagged his way into some sort of fictitious “compromise” with the committee. That compromise has now been “compromised.”
But don’t expect DOJ officials to enforce contempt charges against it’s own executive branch anytime soon. According to former House General Counsel Stanley Brand:
“This is all show. There’s no way to enforce these subpoenas. I know the press likes to say, ‘Contempt. Contempt.’ The fact is that in the last 35 years, no Department of Justice will prosecute an executive branch official under the contempt statute, period.”
The Obama administration knows that the contempt citation is, according to similar situations throughout history, a bluff which will likely drag out for a number of years as protracted litigation leading to a negotiated settlement, eventually producing a file folder of once sensitive documents which, by that time, will have been redacted to include little more than the date and Holders actual shoe size. By postponing the release of the documents they become worth less and less to the investigation because the players involved will eventually leave Washington and the politics surrounding the Fast & Furious scandal will cool.