Judge rules DoJ Must turn over document list on Fast and Furious
This is not quite as big a win as it seems, because in addition toi the judge ordering DoJ to turn over a list of documents from Fast and Furious, he also ordered that the docs remain confidential.
You may recall that President Obama cited executive privilege in keeping the documents from Congress. The judge recognized that right by ordering Congress not to reveal their contents.
After Wednesday's court proceeding, Justice Department spokeswoman Emily Pierce said that "we are pleased the judge recognized that executive privilege includes a deliberative process beyond presidential communications" -- a point the department has been arguing in its dispute with Congress.
In court papers, the Justice Department has said that if the courts were to reject a confidentiality claim, Congress could have unfettered access to all information from the executive branch of government aside from presidential communications.
Such a development would be in contravention of the constitutional separation of powers and over two centuries of dealings between the legislative and executive branches, the department said.
The need for some confidentiality in the executive branch is particularly strong in the current case, which involves a congressional demand for information that would reveal the process by which the executive responds to congressional inquiries, the Obama administration added.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the chairman of the House panel, said that the privilege log "will bring us closer to finding out why the Justice Department hid behind false denials in the wake of reckless conduct that contributed to the violent deaths of border patrol agent Brian Terry and countless Mexican citizens."
Congress is trying to get documents that were created after Feb. 4, 2011 -- the day the Justice Department told Sen. Chuck Grassley that ATF "makes every effort to interdict weapons that have been purchased illegally and prevent their transportation to Mexico."
Grassley is the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. In a follow-up on May 2, 2011, the Justice Department told Grassley that "it remains our understanding that ATF's Operation Fast and Furious did not knowingly permit straw buyers to take guns into Mexico."
Three days later, a senior Justice Department official informed the committee that "there's a there there" with respect to the congressional investigation.
On Dec. 2, 2011, the Justice Department withdrew the original Feb. 4 letter which denied that gun-walking had taken place.
The issue for the judge was protecting the executive branch from congressional investigations that look into practices and procedures agencies use to respond to Congress. There probably isn't a smoking gun in these documents because of that, but Congress has a right to know if it was deliberately decieved by DoJ or whether it was something more innocent.