President Barack Obama had no justification to assert executive privilege in refusing to hand over documents to Congress concerning the Fast and Furious operation, says Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation.
“The assertion of executive privilege appears to be just the latest gambit to keep any of the political appointees within a highly politicized Justice Department from having to take responsibility for the serious mistakes in judgment made in this operation,” he writes in The Hill
Fast and Furious, run by the Justice Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, involved allowing U.S. weapons into the hands of Mexican criminals. The idea was to trace those weapons to Mexican drug kingpins. Instead they were found at the site of the murder of a U.S. border agent.
The operation’s mistakes “killed a U.S. agent and many Mexican citizens,” von Spakovsky writes. “It would be a rank abuse of the Constitution for the president to use executive privilege simply to prevent political embarrassment and to shield political appointees from the consequences of their ill-considered and careless judgment and actions.”
Executive privilege is an important constitutional tool, he acknowledges. “But it is not carte blanche for presidential secrecy. A president must have a legitimate reason to assert executive privilege. It cannot be used for the purpose of hiding wrongdoing by administration officials, especially to block a contempt citation.”
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress Wednesday.
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