In a mounting confrontation with congressional Republicans, President Barack Obama invoked executive privilege Wednesday to withhold documents a House committee is seeking. The panel neared a vote on citing Attorney General Eric Holder for contempt.
Comments rapidly grew more heated. A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner suggested administration officials had lied earlier or were now “bending the law,” while Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings said the committee’s GOP chairman “had no interest” in resolving the issue and was trying to pick a fight.
In a letter to the committee chairman, Darrell Issa of California, a Justice Department official said the executive privilege applies to documents that explain how the department learned there were problems with an investigation in Arizona of gun-running into Mexico, called Operation Fast and Furious.
The citing of contempt for Holder should have been done already. As has been pointed out, Holder already lied to Congress about the Administration’s medical marijuana policies. Unfortunately for him, Congress isn’t like the New York Times or the Center for the American Regress: they are actually aware of the facts and will call the Administration out when they lie.
But the Executive Privilege thing is a real tell. Executive privilege has been most heavily invoked by the Nixon and Clinton Administrations (and, to a lesser degree, by Bush II) to cover up bona fide scandals or, at least, bona fide embarrassments.
The purpose here is delay. Obama is hoping to kick this past the election. But really, I don’t think this is going to matter. Conservatives are going to vote against Obama anyway. And liberals would support him even if Fast and Furious involved Holder personally shooting puppies. Some middle-of-the-road voters might be persuaded. But we’d really need a media that was doing its job and cared about people getting killed because guns were allowed to be smuggled into Mexico.
I’m not holding my breath.
Update: In case you want to know what I consider Media Matter to be a useless Left Wing lie factory, Eric Boehlert is claiming that Ronald Reagan invoked executive privilege 20 times. In fact, the tally is 24 times over all Administrations since Reagan. The tally is Reagan 3, Bush 1, Clinton 14, Bush II 6 and Obama 1. There are plenty of places where you can read about the times executive privilege has been invoked. It has almost always been to cover up embarrassing, rather than classified, info.