Just hours before a vote to hold Eric Holder in contempt of congress for failing to produce nearly 70,000 documents related to the Fast and Furious federal gun walking program President Obama has claimed executive privilege over the documents in order to provide his attorney general cover.
Obama's use of executive privilege may be illegal in less he was directly involved with the Fast and Furious program. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (Democrat) stated just that when Bush tried to claim executive privilege with regards to the firings of various attorneys in the AG's office in an attempt to avoid contempt of congress charges against his chief of staff, Karl Rove and others. For Obama to legally exercise executive privilege in the Fast and Furious matter he will need to admit to having knowledge of the program and not just claim a generalized need to for national security.
In United States vs Nixon the Supreme Court ruled on the use of executive privilege, "To read the Article II powers of the President as providing an absolute privilege as against a subpoena essential to enforcement of criminal statutes on no more than a generalized claim of the public interest in confidentiality of nonmilitary and nondiplomatic discussions would upset the constitutional balance of 'a workable government' and gravely impair the role of the courts under Article III."
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in United States vs Reynolds, "executive privilege is an extraordinary assertion of power 'not to be lightly invoked."
Now that the White House has decided to get involved, the question becomes what did Obama know and when did he know it? The American people have a right to know. The Fast and Furious operation is more than just about allowing guns to be illegally walked into Mexico by drug cartels, it's about the murder of American citizens like Border Patrol Agent Terry. It's about the federal government purposefully allowing illegal activity to try and create an artificial need for infringing on Americans' 2nd amendment rights. It's about a president that has repeatedly violated the separation of powers limitations set forth in the Constitution.
The Fast and Furious scandal is quickly eclipsing Watergate in its gravity.
UPDATE: Sen Grassley weighs in:
"The assertion of executive privilege raises monumental questions," Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley said in a statement released Wednesday shortly after the president's move. "How can the President assert executive privilege if there was no White House involvement? How can the President exert executive privilege over documents he's supposedly never seen? Is something very big being hidden to go to this extreme? The contempt citation is an important procedural mechanism in our system of checks and balances. The questions from Congress go to determining what happened in a disastrous government program for accountability and so that it's never repeated again.”UPDATE: Judge Napolitano weighs in:
Napolitano concluded, “If the president was not personally involved, executive privilege doesn’t apply. If the president was personally involved, and they want to argue that fighting drug gangs at the border is a matter of sensitive national security, then they at least have an argument for executive privilege but that would be at odds with what Attorney General Holder has already testified to under oath.”