The “most transparent administration in history” is once again revealing the rank hypocrisy of President Obama’s assessment. In a motion filed Monday night, lawyers from the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) asked U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson to delay the transfer of documents related to the Fast and Furious gun-running scandal to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, until after her rulings requiring that transfer can be appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. If their bid is successful, it could push the appeals process past the Obama administration’s time in office. In short, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is trying to run out the clock.
Last July, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ordered the DOJ to turn over a “Vaughn index” of all Fast and Furious-requested documents sought by Judicial Watch, which had filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in June 2012. The records sought by Judicial Watch were those withheld from the Oversight Committee when President Obama cited executive privilege in a transparent effort to protect his Attorney General. U.S. District Court Judge John D. Bates lifted the 16-month delay, despite contentions by the DOJ that turning over the records would interfere with litigation between the agency and the Oversight Committee, which had subpoenaed the same documents.
Bates’ ruling was clear:
In the [February 15, 2013] order granting the stay, this court explicitly noted that the DOJ ‘does not seek, and the court will not award, an indefinite stay pending ultimate resolution of the House Committee litigation,’ and that ‘the benefits of delaying this case might well [become] too attenuated to justify any further delay …Because many of the issues to be resolved in this case do not overlap with the House committee, and because resolving those issues will not risk upsetting the delicate balance of powers in subpoena disputes between the political branches, the Court will require DOJ to produce a Vaughn index here.
Bates also noted that no court has ever “expressly recognized” the executive privilege claims made by Obama preventing these documents from being seen by Congress and the American public.
A month later, with the dispute now being adjudicated by Berman, the DOJ was also ordered to turn over a “privilege log,” a.k.a. a list of the documents being withheld. Both orders were supposed to be fulfilled by Oct. 1, 2014.
On Monday the DOJ made it clear they will make yet another attempt to defy both orders. “The Department respectfully submits that it would be preferable for the parties, this Court, and the D.C. Circuit — if an appeal were taken — to have any injunctive order await the conclusion of the district court litigation to allow for orderly and complete appellate proceedings,” DOJ lawyers wrote.
The additional documents run to 64,000 pages and relate directly to the operation that saw as many as 2000 firearms “walked” into Mexico — and into the hands of drug cartel leaders. These weapons have shown up at as many as 200 crime scenes in Mexico, and are responsible for the murder or wounding of approximately 300 Mexicans, including 14 Mexican teenagers who were killed, along with 12 wounded, during a birthday party in Ciudad Juarez in January 2010. F&F weapons were also used to murder Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, who was killed December 14, 2010 while on night patrol in the Arizona desert near the Mexican border, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Agent Jaime Zapata, who was killed on Feb. 15, 2011.
It is critical information about this trail of carnage the DOJ is desperately trying to suppress. Furthermore, as seen in the filing, The DOJ may withhold the documents regardless of the court order, claiming that because it “is clearly injunctive in nature, the Department would be entitled to appeal it as a matter of right.” The DOJ further insists that such an appeal was a “temporal request” aimed at avoiding “intermediate injunctive orders that could generate multiple piecemeal appeals.” If the Court doesn’t buy it, Holder and company want an extension to December 15, 2014, using the rationale that the Court has extended the deadline for producing the log until November 3, 2014.
It should be noted that the mid-term elections occur on Nov. 4. It should also be noted that the DOJ has stonewalled the Fast and Furious investigation for three years, despite numerous subpoenas issued by Oversight Committee chairman Darryl Issa (R-CA), who began issuing them shortly after the GOP gained control of the House in the 2010 election. By June 2011 the DOJ’s delaying tactics were so transparent, Issa began threatening Holder with contempt citations. On June 28, 2012, Holder became the first sitting Cabinet member in history to be held in contempt of Congress. The vote of 255-67 included 17 Democrats who supported the criminal contempt resolution.
Twenty-seven months later, nothing has changed. The DOJ continues to subvert the law, even as Democrats and their allies in the mainstream media continue to insist — as they do with every scandal afflicting the Obama administration — that the investigation amounts to little more than a politically-motivated witch hunt.
Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) is approaching the problem in a different way. On Wednesday, he proposed completely eliminating the agency at the heart of the scandal. The ATF Elimination Act seeks to “abolish the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, transfer its functions relating to the Federal firearms, explosives, and arson laws, violent crime, and domestic terrorism to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and transfer its functions relating to the Federal alcohol and tobacco smuggling laws to the Drug Enforcement Administration, and for other purposes.”
Sensenbrenner believes the benefits of the bill will be twofold, as in a chance to streamline government, and clean up a scandal-ridden agency. “Washington should be responsible stewards of the American taxpayers’ money,” he said in a statement about the bill. He continued:
While all too often that is not the case, this is a good government bill to streamline agency activity at DOJ—increasing effectiveness while decreasing cost. The ATF is a largely duplicative, scandal ridden agency that lacks a clear mission. It is plagued by backlogs, funding gaps, hiring challenges and a lack of leadership. For decades it has been branded by high profile failures. There is also significant overlap with other agencies. At a time when we are approaching $18 trillion in debt, waste and redundancy within our federal agencies must be addressed. Without a doubt, we can fulfill the role of the ATF more efficiently.
Eliminating a chunk of the Executive branch might be a cathartic response for the kind of stonewalling routinely employed by Holder and company, but it doesn’t eliminate the problem. The Obama administration abides one rule of governance above all else: we’re going to do whatever we want, and we dare someone to stop us.
Pick any scandal, be it Fast and Furious, Benghazi, the IRS targeting of conservatives, the lies at the heart of ObamaCare, the dropping of the Black Panther voter intimidation case, the seizing of AP reporter files, etc., etc., and the common thread is transparent. Aided and abetted by an in-the-tank mainstream media and see-no-evil Democrats, the Obama administration has employed an avalanche of lies, stonewalling, and disinformation aimed at producing one outcome: “scandal fatigue” among the American public.
Tragically, that strategy has been enormously successful. For the last six years, this administration has completely avoided anything resembling genuine accountability. For six years, everything has been “someone else’s fault.”
Three hundred dead and wounded Mexicans and two murdered American agents deserve better. Much better.
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