The use of Executive Privilege dates back to the British Monarchy and was adapted by the United States founders as a protection for the office of President against unwarranted investigations into the affairs of the office as it related to the security of the nation. The first President to enact Executive Privilege was George Washington in 1796. He used it to counter a request from the Congress concerning a specific treaty (The Jay Treaty) negotiated with Great Britain. Since Washington many other U.S. Presidents have invoked Executive Privilege and in all cases except one major modern instance they met the Supreme Court criteria for its use, which is the protection of national security matters whose public exposure would be detrimental. The one exception until now was President Richard M. Nixon’s use of it during the Watergate investigation. Although the Court upheld Nixon’s request initially, after further information about some of the content on the Nixon Tapes came to light it became apparent to the Court that the invoking of Executive Privilege was being used for political gain and not national security interests. The Court reversed its decision and eventually the tapes became an official part of the Congressional investigation leading to the resignation of Nixon as President.
President Clinton tried using Executive Privilege during his impeachment hearing over the Monica Lewinsky investigation but his request wasn’t upheld by the Court. President George W. Bush also used it on several different occasions. Some of his requests were proven to be viable to national security and others were not.
Now President Barack Obama, who, when Senator was a strong advocate for the non mis-use of Executive Privilege by the Executive Branch, has come full circle and invoked the privilege, not for national security, but supposedly to protect his friend and appointee - Attorney General Eric Holder. In this case Holder isn’t even a member of the Executive Branch but is part of the Judicial Branch of government, therefore, Executive Privilege does not apply. The question is then - Who is the President really protecting by refusing to release the Fast and Furious documents Congress is requesting? If Executive Privilege doesn’t really help Holder whom within the Executive Branch does it help?
It has already been made known that on at least two separate occasions the Attorney General lied to Congress under oath concerning his knowledge of the ATF’s Fast and Furious gun running operation into Mexico. In March 2011 he told Congress in a hearing that he had just learned about it a couple of weeks before his testimony to them when in fact internal emails and memos show that he was acutely aware of the program as far back as 2010. Then just two weeks ago before Congressman Issa’s Congressional Hearing committee Holder lied again and was exposed just this week over that lie. That is two separate cases of perjury before Congress. It was after that second lie, eleven months into the Congressional investigation and after Issa’s committee had repeatedly requested Holder’s office hand over pertinent documents covering the Fast and Furious operation that the President announced he was instituting the Executive Privilege order and would refuse all further requests from the Congress for any materials relating to the gun running operation.
What makes this even for tantalizing is the fact that normally a President would use Executive Privilege very near the beginning of any kind of investigation by Congress not nearly a full year after the investigation has begun. Also, the fact that the documents being requested are not part of an Executive operation but is related to the Judiciary and not protected by Executive Privilege raises an additional red flag and reeks of political ass-covering instead of real national security interests.
Eventually the truth about Fast and Furious will become public knowledge. What part the Attorney General and possibly the President played in it will also be revealed. Until that happens this political football will be bounced back and forth and can only hurt the President’s facade of integrity as he will watch more and more independents and moderates siphon-ed off to his opponent in this upcoming election.
Finally, many of us who were around in the early 1970’s remember when the left-wing media was all tingly at the thought of tearing into Mr. Nixon when he tried using Executive Privilege during the Watergate scandal. Fast and Furious could likely make Watergate look like a day at the beach and I guess that explains why the Rachel Maddows, Martin Bahirs and Ed Shultz’ aren’t excited now that Obama has put it forth as well for whatever personal reasons he found it necessary to do it for. The big question is - Will they turn on Obama and tear into him over this? Highly unlikely. I have little doubt that the likes of MSNBC, CBS, ABC and other progressive liberal news media outlets that have been carrying the President’s baggage for the last 4 years are already spinning this in his favor. At least no one died in the Watergate scandal. President Obama and Attorney General Holder can’t say the same for what took place on their watch. They have the blood of two American border heroes on their hands and that is something they will have to live with for the rest of their lives.