Fast and Furious stonewall hits the courts
The Obama administration gave us its oral argument resisting a congressional subpoena to turn over documents related to Fast and Furious. There is reason to believe they may be falling flat, though of course predicting any judicial ruling is hazardous. David Ingram of Yahoo News reports:
A U.S. Justice Department lawyer said on Wednesday that if a judge agreed to consider a Republican bid to get administration documents related to a botched operation against gun-trafficking it would prompt a flood of requests for courts to referee Washington political disputes.
President Barack Obama is resisting a congressional subpoena for documents related to how the administration responded to the revelation of the failed operation known as "Fast and Furious" on the U.S.- Mexican border. It has already turned over thousands of pages of documents about the operation itself.
Justice Department lawyer Ian Gershengorn told a hearing the matter was best left to the give-and-take of the U.S. government's two elected branches, the president and Congress, and should not be a matter for the courts.
"That is how it has worked for 225 years," said Gershengorn, referring to the ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1788.
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson was skeptical and told Gershengorn, "There are three branches here, not just two." She did not say how she would rule, but questioned Gershengorn for more than twice as long as she did House of Representatives lawyer Kerry Kircher.
To my untutored eyes, it looks like there is ample precedent for courts forcing the executive branch to submit to congressional oversight. I am old enough to remember Watergate, in which documents and tape recordings were ordered turned over. And Ingram also notes more recent court precedent:
In a decision that now helps Republicans, U.S. District Judge John Bates ruled in 2008 that he did have the authority to enforce a subpoena by congressional Democrats in connection with the firing of nine U.S. attorneys.
We don't know what evidence exists in the trove that the Obama administration is hiding from Congress. Many conservatives suspect the worst, that this was a cynical operation designed to build pressure for more gun control legislation. Others suspect that Holder must have had to sign off on the program, since it involved cross-border operations in Mexico.
Whatever the hidden documents say, the Obama administration does not want us to find out.