I wrote yesterday that the Obama administration’s assertion of executive privilege with respect to Fast and Furious documents that have been subpoenaed by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is frivolous. If you haven’t already read it, you can check out that post to see why. In addition, I pointed out that lawyers only assert lousy claims of privilege when they have something to hide.
So the presumption that there is damaging information in the documents the administration refuses to produce is very strong. In his defense, Eric Holder merely asks that we trust him. But why should we? The administration’s track record with respect to Fast and Furious–and Eric Holder’s, in particular–is one of serial attempts to deceive. Let’s itemize three instances.
First was DOJ’s letter to Senator Charles Grassley dated February 4, 2011. The letter was signed by Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich, but undoubtedly was approved by Holder. Weich denied that the Obama administration had deliberately allowed firearms to be delivered to Mexican drug cartels as part of the Fast and Furious program. This was the key language:
ATF makes every effort to interdict weapons that have been purchased illegally and prevent their transportation to Mexico.
That statement, which goes to the heart of the Fast and Furious scandal, was false. On December 2, 2011, the department took the extraordinary step of withdrawing its February 4 letter and admitting that the assurances it contained were untrue. In fact, as DOJ belatedly acknowledged, the whistle blowers had been telling the truth, and Fast and Furious was different from any weapons-related program that preceded it precisely because ATF deliberately refrained from making arrests, and, having planted guns in the hands of straw purchasers, allowed those guns to cross the border into Mexico so that they could be delivered to drug gangs. Therein, of course, lies the scandal.
Second was Eric Holder’s claim that his predecessor, Attorney General Michael Mukasey, was briefed about gunwalking in connection with a different program called Wide Receiver. On June 14, Holder testified under oath before the Senate Judiciary Committee:
If you want to talk about Fast and Furious, I’m the Attorney General that put an end to the misguided tactics that were used in Fast and Furious. An Attorney General who I suppose you would hold in higher regard was briefed on these kinds of tactics in an operation called Wide Receiver and did nothing to stop them – nothing. Three hundred guns, at least, walked in that instance.
Senator Grassley followed up by questioning the veracity of Holder’s claim and asking for evidence to back it up:
This is a serious charge. However, as far as I’m aware, the Justice Department has produced nothing to date that indicates any former Attorney General was briefed on Operation Wide Receiver.
I am aware that the Justice Department produced a memorandum to Attorney General Mukasey in preparation for a November 16, 2007, meeting with Mexican Attorney General Medina Mora. At no point does this memo mention Operation Wide Receiver, in which over 300 guns were allowed to walk to Mexico. Instead, the memo appears to refer to a case called Hernandez, which involved a planned controlled delivery – not intentional gun walking.
Documents the Justice Department has produced have indicated that the gunwalking in Operation Wide Receiver was brought to the attention of Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer in April 2010 by his deputy, Jason Weinstein. Breuer’s response, according to a contemporaneous e-mail from Criminal Division Gang Unit Chief James Trusty, was simply that he “want[ed] us to meet with [ATF] at some point so they know the bad stuff that could come out.”
Holder responded to Senator Grassley’s request by admitting that he had fabricated his smear of Attorney General Mukasey:
During a hearing last week, Attorney General Eric Holder claimed that his predecessor, then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey, had been briefed about gunwalking in Operation Wide Receiver. Now, the Department is retracting that statement and claiming Holder “inadvertently” made that claim to the Committee. The Department’s letter failed to apologize to former Attorney General Mukasey for the false accusation.
Holder “inadvertently” lied about his predecessor? How dumb does he think we are?
Third is the bizarre scene that I wrote about here, when Holder denied that an email thread that talked about “Fast and Furious” referred to Fast and Furious. Holder claimed “superior knowledge” of the facts. As far as I know, Holder has not yet retracted his arrogant falsehood. This is a portion of the email thread:
And this is Holder’s weird attempt to deny reality:
So with respect to Fast and Furious, we have a pattern of repeated falsehoods by the Obama administration in general and in particular by Eric Holder. Holder has repeatedly demonstrated himself to be a dishonest witness; to be blunt, a liar. He has displayed a level of mendacity that is not often seen, even in Washington. So why, exactly, would anyone believe him when he now tries to tell us that there is nothing significant in those documents he desperately wants to prevent us from seeing?