Rep. Darrel Issa, the chairman of the House oversight committee investigating White House involvement in 'Fast And Furious' wrote a 7 page letter to President Obama today, accusing the White House of either misleading Congress about his involvement in the scandal or intentionally obstructing Congress' inquiry.
The letter came in response to the president's decision to assert executive privilege over documents subpoenaed by the committee that Attorney General Eric Holder refused to release. The House is expected to vote on holding the attorney general in contempt of Congress in two days time.
"Either you or your most senior advisers were involved in managing Operation Fast & Furious and the fallout from it...or, you are asserting a Presidential power that you know to be unjustified solely for the purpose of further obstructing a congressional investigation," Issa wrote. "To date, the White House has steadfastly maintained that it has not had any role in advising the Department with respect to the congressional investigation. The surprising assertion of executive privilege raised the question of whether that is still the case."
Issa asked Obama to "define the universe of documents over which you asserted executive privilege and provide the committee with the legal justification from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC)."
This is called cataloging, something that has been used in virtually every claim of executive privilege previously asserted. It amounts to listing the documents denied and providing a rationale under which they are covered by executive privilege. In contrast, this president has merely issued a blanket claim.
"These key documents would help the committee understand how and why the Justice Department moved from denying whistle blower allegations to understanding they were true; the identities of officials who attempted to retaliate against whistle blowers," Issa wrote, also stating that the committee wants to learn "whether senior (Justice) Department officials are being held to the same standard as lower-level employees who have been blamed for Fast and Furious by their politically-appointed bosses in Washington."
And of course, here's the kicker - Issa wants President Obama to explain "what extent were you or your most senior advisers involved in Operation Fast and Furious and the fallout from it," and asked the president to provide documents related to "any communications, meetings, and teleconferences between the White House and the Justice Department between February 4, 2011, and June 18, 2012, the day before the attorney general requested that you assert executive privilege."
Fast and Furious was a Department of Justice program that allowed huge
quantities of AK-47s and other firearms to be purchased by straw buyers
and "walk" into Mexico to be illegally sold to Mexican drug cartels.
The weapons were not electronically tracked, most have never been
recovered and over 300 murders have been linked to them, including that
of border patrol agent Brian Terry.
The subpoenaed documents concern Department of Justice and White House deliberations that likely led to a Justice Department letter, signed by Holder back in February 2011, that claimed he and the upper echelons of the Department of Justice had no prior knowledge of Fast and Furious. The letter was revealed as patently untrue nine months after AG Holder submitted it to the committee.
But wait, there's more.
Issa and his co-chair, Senator Chuck Grassley have their hands on a copy of an internal Justice Department memo provided by a whistle blower that involved wiretap applications and reportedly shows that senior DOJ officials including AG Holder knew back in March 2011 that the February 4, 2011 letter from the DOJ to Senator Chuck Grassley denying guns were permitted to “walk” into Mexico was bogus. That letter, signed by Attorney General Holder was allowed to .stand for nine more months, and was only withdrawn when a series of e-mails subpoenaed by the committee proved that Holder was briefed far earlier on the program than he claimed to have been.
“The ATF director, Kenneth Melson, sent an e-mail. And he had said to us in sworn testimony that, in fact, he had concerns,” Issa said. “And we want to see that e-mail because that’s an example where he was saying, if we believe his sworn testimony, that guns walked. And he said it shortly after February 4, and [on] July 4. When he told us that, we began asking for that document.”
What this shows, of course, is that even though Holder and senior DOJ official knew in March 2011 that the information provided in the February letter was false, they continued to mislead Congress for another 8 months and only dropped the pose after subsequent e-mails showed the information contained February letter was completely untrue.
That's called obstruction of justice and perjury.
Even more interesting is that the wiretap applications may not be able to be shielded by the president under executive privilege because these particular documents are already under federal court seal. Issa has said a whistleblower provided copies to his committee.
Issa and Grassley aren't stupid, and they appear to be following an old lawyer's dictum not to ask any questions you don't already know the answer to.
And there is definitely another trail that leads back directly to the White House.
As you'll recall, Obama's 2009 stimulus bill was thrashed out entirely by Democrats with Republicans literally locked out of the room.
Guess what? There's $10 million in stimulus funds that were earmarked to fund Fast and Furious. It's in the stimulus bill itself.
Who put it in the bill? Was it Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi? Steny Hoyer? And whose instructions were they acting on? What did the President know and when did he know it?
Perhaps it's time to ask President Obama to be deposed and answer a few questions, under oath. Just to get him on record.