Issa Catches White House Between A Rock And A Hard Place On Executive Privilege


I’m sure you’ve all seen the headlines by now. Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, has been trying to get the Obama administration to divulge information about the infamous Operation Fast and Furious. Finally, last week, President Obama claimed executive privilege, denying Issa’s requests.

Later this week there will be a vote on contempt charges for Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder, but Issa has his eyes set on the President as well. You see, all along Holder and other administration members have claimed that the White House had nothing at all to do with Operation Fast and Furious. But now that Obama has invoked executive privilege, it seems pretty clear the White House did have something to do with it.

You can’t have it both ways. If the White House wasn’t involved there is no executive privilege. If the White House was involved, there was a whole lot of lying to Congress going on. Which is the thrust of a letter Rep. Issa has sent to the President:

“[Y]our privilege assertion means one of two things,” Issa wrote to the president in a letter dated June 25. “Either you or your most senior advisors were involved in managing Operation Fast & Furious and the fallout from it, including the false February 4, 2011 letter provided by the attorney general to the committee, or, you are asserting a presidential power that you know to be unjustified solely for the purpose of further obstructing a congressional investigation.”

Issa said Obama’s assertion of executive privilege “raised the question” about the veracity of how the “White House has steadfastly maintained that it has not had any role in advising the department with respect to the congressional investigation.”

Issa laid out that this is because the “Justice Department has steadfastly maintained that the documents sought by the committee do not implicate the White House whatsoever.”

“If true, they are at best deliberative documents between and among department personnel who lack the requisite ‘operational proximity’ to the president,” as legal precedent Issa cites requires. “As such, they cannot be withheld pursuant to the constitutionally-based executive privilege.”

Issa further breaks down how, “[c]ourts distinguish between the presidential communications privilege and the deliberative process privilege.”

“Both … are executive privileges designed to protect the confidentiality of executive branch decision-making,” Issa wrote. “The deliberative-process privilege, however, which applies to executive branch officials generally, is a common law privilege that requires a lower threshold of need to be overcome, and ‘disappears altogether when there is any reason to believe government misconduct has occurred.’”

The President’s actions throughout this would seem to indicate that he really, really has something to hide. If the President wasn’t involved in the scandal, you’d expect that he would have just fired those involved long ago and be done with it. Or, at the very least, you’d expect the administration to just release the information Issa is requesting and take their lumps secure in the fact that the President is still above it all.

But this fight they’re picking with Congress makes it seem like they’ve got something big to hide. Like the President’s personal involvement.

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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  • realitybasedbob

    Issa: No evidence of W.H. role in Fast and Furious scandal

    During an appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” Issa acknowledged there
    was no evidence that White House officials were involved in Fast and
    Furious or later efforts to keep information from Congress.

    • sbark

      I love how he didnt play his cards for the sunday show talking heads…….

      it was Rovian,  Cheney’esque,  Palin’esque……

      basically he didnt give to get any extra time to put together the standard talking points…….ie Lies

      • Bat One

        Exactly right!  Only the President can claim executive privilege.  And if there was no consultation between DoJ and the White House, then there is no basis for the claim of privilege.  By claiming privilege, Obama puts himself on record as acknowledging that the consultations they have denied for over a year and a half DID in fact take place.  A second year law student would know this… even if a purported constitutional law instructor doesn’t.

        Its really like most of Obama’s history.  If there’s nothing to hide, why do they go to the trouble and expense of hiding it?

        • Terri Geer

          Wrong. Obama did no such thing. But he did help to avoid another GOP witch hunt. Obama claiming executive privilege stopped, in it’s tracks, the witch hunt that Issa has been pushing for since before Obama was even sworn in.

          IMO, what Obama did was smart, but in no way did it indicate that either he or the Justice Department were in anyway involved.

          • Bat One

            Your responses are, predictably, self-serving, factually wrong, and an insult to both rational thought and the English language. A liberal trifecta of lame excuses.

            Both federal and Arizona state law forbid the sale of fully-automatic capable “assault weapons” such as the ARs and AKs included in the Obama regime’s “Fast and Furious” program. Neither statute includes an exception for DoJ or ATF sanctioned sales across the nation’s southern border to known suppliers to Mexican drug cartels. In addition to the illegality of the sales themselves, there is the issue of culpability for the murders committed with those weapons, including the death of Agent Brian Terry. If you illegally sell a such a weapon to someone who later uses it to kill a federal officer, you are, by law, as guilty as the individual who pulled the trigger. So the congressional investigation into “Fast and Furious” isn’t the political “witch hunt” that you and other Obama/Holder apologists would like to pretend, but a constitutionally authorized examination of criminal behavior by members of the Executive Branch of government.

            For an example of a real “witch hunt” see the “investigation” of former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez and the braying, faux indignation of congressional Democrats when Mr. Gonzalez had the temerity to fire several US Attorneys who refused to investigate voter fraud in their respective districts. (We all know how Democrats hold sacred the right to commit voter fraud.) And of course, Mr. Gonzalez neither committed nor sanctioned any crime, such as illegal gun sales or murder, in firing disobedient underlings.

            BTW, you are also wrong in stating the Mr. Issa’s “witch hunt” started before Obama took office. Representative Issa only become chairman of the House Committee in January 2011 after the 2010 mid-term elections when voters removed Pelosi from the House Speaker’s office and put Republicans in control of Congress.

            As for the issue of Executive Privilege, I suggest you pay some thoughtful attention to the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision, written by liberal Chief Justice Warren Burger, in US v. Nixon.( 683_ZO.html)

            Executive privilege is defined as “…confidential conversations between a President and his close advisors …” and as the court later notes, “Neither the doctrine of separation of powers nor the generalized need for confidentiality of high-level communications, without more, can sustain an absolute, unqualified Presidential privilege of immunity from judicial process under all circumstances…” Note that the court’s unanimous opinion refers only to conversations between a president and his advisors. Only “the president’s conversations” are covered by the privilege. Conversations between an Attorney General and the director of the ATF or a political advisor such as David Axelrod or David Plouffe are not defined by the court as covered by executive privilege. Which means that the Obama regime’s claim of executive privilege ipso facto defines the subject conversations as directly involving the president… contrary to your delusional statement, “(W)hat Obama did was smart, but in no way did it indicate that either he or the Justice Department were in anyway involved.” As the Supreme Court’sNixon opinion makes clear only a president’s own conversations are covered. Presumably, both Holder and Obama have some modest knowledge about the Constitution and the US legal system, and would thus know the definition.

        • Terri Geer

          As for Obama’s history, he hasn’t gone to the trouble and expense to hide it. There is no reason to. Non of it is public, and hasn’t been as far back as 1974. So there is no reason to seal anything.

  • SigFan

    Holder doesn’t take a dump without Obama’s permission.  Anyone who thinks that Obama isn’t in this up to his skinny neck is delusional.  The real question now is whether the DOJ and WH can stonewall long enough to get past the election – at which point if he wins, Obama will order Holder to fall on his sword and he will issue him a pardon.  All the more reason to keep the heat turned up and force this out to the front.

    • realitybasedbob

      Zippy, what do you think President Obama’s goal was with this program originated during the bush years?

      • SigFan

        President Bush’s Operation Wide Receiver was a joint effort between the US and Mexico’s government, and the guns in that case were traced. When problems with the program were identified the program was ended and no one died. Fast and Furious was conducted without the cooperation or even notification of the Mexican government, the guns weren’t traced and people were killed. Not the same program, not the same method and definitively not the same result.

        As to obama’s goal – using this as a trumped up excuse to enact stricter gun controls fits very well with what was done and the information that we have at this point. If he had another goal in mind why don’t you try to tell us what it was?

        • realitybasedbob

          Thanks for making me laugh.

          Please tell us how the operation, originated in a field office in AZ, implicates the WH.

          And for bonus points, please expound on the “stricter gun control” aspect of your comedy routine. Using the name LaPierre and the word conspiracy will zip you to the top of your class.

          • Gern Blanston

            If the WH is not implicated, them why did the President claim executive privilege? What does he care about an operation originating in a field office in AZ?

          • SigFan

             Boob’s convoluted explanation for that ought to be a hoot.  Either Obama is implicated or he is lying to try to save Holder’s bacon.  Either way it will catch up to both of them.

          • realitybasedbob

            My understanding of the gop with a criminal past, Issa’s, doc requests are that the docs are from after the op. took place and that there are names of active covert agents among other things that should be kept secret.

            We all know how careless gop is about protecting covert agents names, now don’t we?

          • Marc

             “The numerous
            national security leaks reportedly originating out of the executive branch in
            recent months have been stunning,”

            didn’t know that  Thomas Donilon was gop.

          • Gern Blanston

            Really? Give one example.

          • realitybasedbob

            I’m sure you can come up with at least one name on your own.

          • Onslaught1066

             If you don’t know of any, just say so.

            We’ll understand.

          • Gern Blanston

            Nope. Got nothing.

          • realitybasedbob

            Well, that’s a given.

            The NOX CIA agent I’m thinking of was married to a man called “a true American hero” by 41.

          • Gern Blanston

            Just can’t get yourself to write the name, can you?

          • realitybasedbob

            Her outing got our Veep’s chief of staff convicted on 4 felony counts.

            Do you need to buy a vowel?

          • Onslaught1066

             Was it your mom?

            I mean the man to which this non-existent agent of yours was married.

      • Proof

         ” this program originated during the bush years?” Don’t you ever get tired of being wrong, Nutterbob? Operation Wide Receiver was over two years before the Keystone Kops came up with Fast and FUBAR.

    • Bat One

      Actually, I think Holder is a bit smarter than Obama.  But then Darrell Issa is apparently smarter than both of them.

      • SigFan

        I actually don’t think either of them are dumb – incompetent, corrupt, fools – yes. Dumb – not so much.

  • sbark

    This is Watergate…….but with 300 dead people……

    I remember Shehan hounding GW Bush for years, claiming she had “absolute moral postion” to do so………because her son signed up for military duty?

    I wonder what Brian Terry’s folk think about their absolute moral position to find out the truth as to what led up to his murder by US weapons supplied essentially by Holder and Obama…..

    • Spartacus

      Cindy, not Patty

      • sbark

        ooopps …your right/ thanks

  • Bat One

    Obama’s claim of executive privilege is nothing more than a desperate and elaborate stall, to try and get the “Fast and Furious” investigation off the front page of the papers until after the November election.  The House will vote the contempt citation on Thursday, right after the Supreme Court announces it’s Obamacare decision – two more losses for Holder and Obama –  and the issue will head to the courts where eventually the Supreme Court will again rule against Holder and Obama and deny the executive privilege claim (see US v. Nixon

    • Terri Geer

      If this is true, then why has Issa stated publicly that neither the White House or the Justice Department had any knowledge of it?

  • Gern Blanston

    Levin’s name of Millhouse for Mr. President seems particularly prescient of late…

    • Bat One

      It is indeed.  Obama is taking the notion of the “Imperial Presidency” way, way beyond anything Richard Nixon ever dreamed of.

      And in the increasingly unlikely event that Obama manages to get himself reelected in November, the Congress’ first order of business ought to be impeachment proceedings.

  • mickey_moussaoui

    Barack Obama Lied.
    Brian Terry Died.

  • banjo kid

    Narcissist supreme, he can not be trusted as he thinks only of self and no one else . all the great communist leaders were narcissist and only applied the law to others . Notice how unlawful the DOJ has become, I sure have noticed . I have never seen this out of any leader in our country, he has effectively declared war on a state , what kind of BS is that? We had better declare war on him at the polls this year or we are doomed . Well I have had my say and I am going to my work shop and finish my guitar fret job.