The New American | October 17 2012
As lawmakers seek to use federal courts to force disgraced Attorney General Eric Holder and the Justice Department to hand over documents on the deadly Fast and Furious gun-running scandal, the Obama administration filed a motion this week claiming that the judicial branch has no power to interfere. According to the Department of Justice, a ruling in favor of Congress and its oversight authority would violate so-called “executive privilege.” But lawmakers are not buying it.
While he is currently abusing his position to shield himself from prosecution, Holder famously became the first attorney general in U.S. history to be held in civil and criminal contempt of Congress in late June on a bipartisan vote. Lawmakers were upset over the administration’s ongoing coverup in which it refused to provide subpoenaed documents on Fast and Furious, the now-infamous federal scheme that put thousands of high-powered American weapons into the hands of Mexican drug cartels.
“Disputes of this sort have arisen regularly since the founding,” the Justice Department claimed in the legal brief filed late Monday, asking the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to dismiss the lawsuit. “For just as long, these disputes have been resolved between the political branches through a constitutionally grounded system of negotiation, accommodation and self-help.” The filing also claimed the courts lack jurisdiction in the case.
The administration has unlawfully refused to hand over thousands of documents related to the scandal, repeatedly defying congressional subpoenas and flouting the authority of Congress. When it became clear that lawmakers would not back down in the effort to uncover the details of Fast and Furious, however, President Obama stepped in and claimed “executive privilege” to justify the coverup.
Congress responded with contempt charges and over 120 members of the House and Senate demanded Holder’s resignation. When that failed, lawmakers filed suit in federal court. Now the administration claims that even the judiciary does not have the authority to force the executive branch’s hand. Lawmakers trying to carry out their oversight responsibilities, though, say the Justice Department’s argument is absurd on its face.
“The Obama Administration’s argument should trouble Americans who believe the President and the federal government are not above the law,” said House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who has been leading the charge for accountability. “In perpetuating a cover-up, through false and misleading statements that even the Justice Department’s own Inspector General found troubling, the Obama administration argued for months that it did not have to meet its legal obligations to a lawfully issued congressional subpoena.”