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As the lawsuits — many of them filed and pursued by Judicial Watch — have wound their way through the courts, the Obama administration has been less and less successful in kicking the Fast and Furious can much farther down the road. Not that they aren’t still trying. Attorney General Eric Holder – the first AG to be held in contempt of Congress for his assiduous lack of cooperation – has finally come to the realization that soon the entire sordid story will be disgorged from the Justice Department’s files. If, that is, they don’t experience mass hard drive failures a la the IRS. In any case, Holder has decided that now’s the time to get the hell out while the getting is good. In a long-delayed just-released accounting of the related evidence the most transparent administration in history has been sitting on . . .

certain documents still being withheld by the Obamanauts based on a novel claim of executive privilege covering Eric Holder’s wife, AKA the “First Lady of the Justice Department.” You read that correctly. Here’s Judicial Watch’s press release. Read it and weep for government accountability.

Judicial Watch announced today that it received from the Obama Department of Justice (DOJ) a “Vaughn index” detailing records about the Operation Fast and Furious scandal.  The index was forced out of the Obama administration thanks to JW’s June 2012 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request and subsequent September 2012 FOIA lawsuit (Judicial Watch v. Department of Justice (No. 1:12-cv-01510)).  A federal court had ordered the production over the objections of the Obama Justice Department.

The document details the Attorney General Holder’s personal involvement in managing the Justice Department’s strategy on media and Congressional investigations into the Fast and Furious scandal.  Notably, the document discloses that emails between Attorney General Holder and his wife Sharon Malone – as well as his mother – are being withheld under an extraordinary claim of executive privilege as well as a dubious claim of deliberative process privilege under the Freedom of Information Act.  The “First Lady of the Justice Department” is a physician and not a government employee.

This is the first time that the Obama administration has provided a detailed listing of all records being withheld from Congress and the American people about the deadly Fast and Furious gun running scandal. The 1307-page “draft” Vaughn index was emailed to Judicial Watch at 8:34 p.m. last night, a few hours before a federal court-ordered deadline.  In its cover letter, the Department of Justice asserts that all of the responsive records described in the index are “subject to the assertion of executive privilege.”

The Vaughn index explains 15,662 documents. Typically, a Vaughn index must: (1) identify each record withheld; (2) state the statutory exemption claimed; and (3) explain how disclosure would damage the interests protected by the claimed exemption.  The Vaughn index arguably fails to provide all of this required information but does provide plenty of interesting information for a public kept in the dark for years about the Fast and Furious scandal.

Based on a preliminary review of the massive document, Judicial Watch can disclose that the Vaughn index reveals:

  • Numerous emails that detail Attorney General Holder’s direct involvement in crafting talking points, the timing of public disclosures, and handling Congressional inquiries in the Fast and Furious matter.
  • President Obama has asserted executive privilege over nearly 20 email communications between Holder and his spouse Sharon Malone. The administration also claims that the records are also subject to withholding under the “deliberative process” exemption. This exemption ordinarily exempts from public disclosure records that could chill internal government deliberations.
  • Numerous entries detail DOJ’s communications (including those of Eric Holder) concerning the White House about Fast and Furious.
  • The scandal required the attention of virtually every top official of the DOJ and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). Communications to and from the United States Ambassador to Mexico about the Fast and Furious matter are also described.
  • Many of the records are already publicly available such as letters from Congress, press clips, and typical agency communications. Ordinarily, these records would, in whole or part, be subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.  Few of the records seem to even implicate presidential decision-making and advice that might be subject to President Obama’s broad and unprecedented executive privilege claim.

Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton criticized President Obama and his disgraced Attorney General in a statement today:

This document provides key information about the cover-up of Fast and Furious by Attorney General Eric Holder and other high-level officials of the Obama administration. Obama’s executive privilege claims over these records are a fraud and an abuse of his office.  There is no precedent for President Obama’s Nixonian assertion of executive privilege over these ordinary government agency records.  Americans will be astonished that Obama asserted executive privilege over Eric Holder’s emails to his wife about Fast and Furious.

Once again, Judicial Watch has proven itself more effective than Congress and the establishment media in providing basic oversight of this out-of-control Administration.  This Fast and Furious document provides dozens of leads for further congressional, media, and even criminal investigations.

On June 28, 2012, Attorney General Eric Holder was held in contempt by the House of Representatives over his refusal to turn over records explaining why the Obama administration may have lied to Congress and refused for months to disclose the truth about the gun running operation.  It marked the first time in U.S. history that a sitting Attorney General was held in contempt of Congress.

A week before the contempt finding, to protect Holder from criminal prosecution and stave off the contempt vote, President Obama asserted executive privilege over the Fast and Furious records the House Oversight Committee had subpoenaed eight months earlier. Judicial Watch filed its FOIA request two days later.  Holder’s Justice Department wouldn’t budge (or follow the law), so JW filed a FOIA lawsuit on September 12, 2012.

But then the Justice Department convinced U.S. District Court Judge John D. Bates to stay our lawsuit, in part to allow ongoing settlement discussions between the Holder’s government lawyers and the House Committee to continue.  Unsurprisingly, the “negotiations” between politicians running the House and the Justice Department went nowhere.

Fed up with the interminable delay caused Holder’s gamesmanship and stonewalling, JW renewed its request to the Court to allow our transparency lawsuit to continue.  Thankfully, this past July, Judge John D. Bates ended the 16-month delay and ordered the Obama administration to produce a Vaughn index of the alleged “executive privilege” records by October 1. Judge Bates noted that no court has ever “expressly recognized” President Obama’s unprecedented executive privilege claims in the Fast and Furious matter.

Unhappy with having to produce the records prior to the elections, Justice lawyers asked the judge to give them one extra month, until November 3 (the day before Election Day!) to produce the info.  Judge Bates rejected this gambit, suggested that the Holder’s agency did not take court order seriously.  Rather than a month, Judge Bates gave Justice until yesterday to cough up the Vaughn index. Judge Bates issued his smack down on September 23.

Attorney General Eric Holder announced his resignation two days later.

Many share our opinion it was “no coincidence” that Holder’s resignation came “on the heels of another court ruling that the Justice Department must finally cough up information about how Holder’s Justice Department lied to Congress and the American people about the Operation Fast and Furious scandal, for which Eric Holder was held in contempt by the House of Representatives.”

The House had been separately litigating to obtain the records but had gotten nowhere until after Judge Bates ruled that the DOJ finally had to disclose information to Judicial Watch.

On September 9, U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson, citing Judicial Watch’s success, ordered the Justice Department to produce information to Congress by November 3.

Fast and Furious was a DOJ/Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) “gun running” operation in which the Obama administration reportedly allowed guns to go to Mexican drug cartels hoping they would end up at crime scenes, advancing gun-control policies. Fast and Furious weapons have been implicated in the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and hundreds of other innocents in Mexico.  Guns from the Fast and Furious scandal are expected to be used in criminal activity on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border for years to come.

Guns from the Fast and Furious scandal continue to be used in crimes.  Just last week, Judicial Watch disclosed that a Fast and Furious gun was used in gang -style assault on a Phoenix apartment building that left two people wounded.  We figured this out from information we uncovered through another public records lawsuit against the City of Phoenix.

Congress officially confirmed the AK-47 was used in the assault that terrorized residents in Phoenix.  In an October 16 letter sent from Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Rep. Darryl Issa (R-CA) to Deputy Attorney General James Cole discloses that “we have learned of another crime gun connected to Fast and Furious.  The [Justice] Department did not provide any notice to the Congress or the public about this gun….This lack of transparency about the consequences of Fast and Furious undermines public confidence in law enforcement and gives the impression that the Department is seeking to suppress information and limit its exposure to public scrutiny.”

We have many other active lawsuits over the Fast and Furious scandal:

On October 11, 2011, Judicial Watch sued the DOJ and the ATF to obtain all Fast and Furious records submitted to the House Committee on Oversight.

On June 6, 2012, Judicial Watch sued the ATF seeking access to records detailing communications between ATF officials and Kevin O’Reilly, former Obama White House Director of North American Affairs at the U.S. National Security Council.

On September 5, 2013, Judicial Watch sued the DOJ seeking access to all records of communications between DOJ and the Oversight Committee relating to settlement discussions in the Committee’s 2012 contempt of Congress lawsuit against Holder. The contempt citation stemmed from Holder’s refusal to turn over documents to Congress related to the Fast and Furious gunrunning scandal.

On May 28, 2014, Judicial Watch sued the DOJ on behalf of ATF Special Agent John Dodson, who blew the whistle on Operation Fast and Furious and was then subjected to an alleged smear campaign designed to destroy his reputation.

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  1. When people are held in contempt, isn’t there usually some sort of…penalty? What happened when Holder was held in contempt, an old lady stopped by and said “I’m very disappointed in you”?

    • When you’re the country’s ultimate legal authority, it exempts you from having to follow any laws, or be punished for the laws you break (hoo boy do I wish I could add a /sarc tag to this….)

      • Well, when you are the absolute legal authority it makes it somewhat of a conflict of interest to prosecute yourself and I highly doubt anyone in the DOJ has the cojones to prosecute the guy who signs his/her checks.

    • Ron Machen is the US Attorney for DC. He is a well known Democratic hack. Since the contempt citation occurred in DC, he would be the one who would “prosecute”. However, he was appointed to his position by Obama upon Holder’s recommendation so you can guess where this goes. What needs to happen is the Republicans re-take the Senate and then can work with the House to indict Holder and impeach Machen for failing to exercise his authority. Ron is a nice guy (know him thru mutual friends), but he has sold his soul to the devil to protect Barry Soetoro. If anything, the liberal machine will make sure he has a comfy job at a K street firm in DC when this is over. However, if the Senate impeaches him, well, his career choices will be limited. . . .

      • Ron is a nice guy (know him thru mutual friends), but he has sold his soul to the devil to protect Barry Soetoro.

        Oxymoron much?

        Nice guys don’t sell their soul to the devil.

      • You cannot “indict” or “impeach” a federal official for failing to exercise a discretionary power, only for failing to exercise a mandatory power, or abusing the power granted (i.e., graft). Bringing criminal charges against anyone is a discretionary function of the district attorney/attorney general for which there is absolute immunity.

        • My comment was directed to the DC asst attorney general, not Herr Holder, in response to the comment that he should be impeached for failing to indict Holder. I have no doubt that the court can enforce contempts, the problem is getting before the court. I doubt Congress can convene a grand jury, but that that is a function of the DC AG. Changing Congress will not change the AG, only a change in administration can accomplish that.

      • I thought the sergeant-at-Arms, when directed, did it (emphasis mine):

        ” Under this process, the procedure for holding a person in contempt involves only the chamber concerned. Following a contempt citation, the person cited is arrested by the Sergeant-at-Arms for the House or Senate, brought to the floor of the chamber, held to answer charges by the presiding officer, and then subjected to punishment as the chamber may dictate (usually imprisonment for punishment reasons, imprisonment for coercive effect, or release from the contempt citation).”


  2. Maybe just maybe it is time for holder and obama to get their just dues……Justice may grind slowly but it does grind on.

  3. Another fine example showing government employees serve themselves and protect their pensions. And basically tell the people to F off.

    Just burn the parchment for the words no longer have meaning.

  4. He’s a corrupt cull and he appoints people with similar character. Just think of the things he’s done that we know nothing about.

  5. This tells us nothing we did not already know–that Holder was intimately involved in the cover-up (which is an embarrassment to the Administration in and of itself). But what we all want to know is how far up the chain of command did the authorization for fast & furious come from? There is nothing in these materials to suggest that Holder was involved in that authorization, but instead that it was a local program devised by the regional ATF and the Asst Attorney General in Phoenix. But someone in DC knew–we just don’t know who.

    • From The Constitution Society:

      Meaning of “High Crimes and Misdemeanors”

      An official such as the president does not need to take a special oath to become subject to the penalties of perjury. He took an oath, by Art. II Sec. 1 Cl. 8, to “faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States” and to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” to the best of his ability. While he holds that office, he is always under oath, and lying at any time constitutes perjury if it is not justified for national security…

      It should be noted, however, that when an offense against a statute is also a “high crime or misdemeanor”, it may be, and usually is, referred to by a different name, when considered as such. Thus, an offense like “obstruction of justice” or “subornation of perjury” may become “abuse of authority” when done by an official bound by oath. As such it would be grounds for impeachment and removal from office, but would be punishable by its statutory name once the official is out of office…

      The impeachment and removal process should be a debate on the entire field of proven and suspected misconduct by federal officials and agents under this president, and if judged to have been excessive by reasonable standards, to be grounds for removal, even if direct complicity cannot be shown.

        • Mark, you know who it was just as well as I do. And if I was wrong, we’d have been given the name and the supporting documents long ago. There is only one person in this administration that everyone would go to such extreme lengths to protect from the truth.

    • Your argument suggests that Holder was not responsible for Fast and Furious because there is no evidence he knew. But, he did fundamentally transform the Justice Department to make these kinds of decisions possible. There is a precedence in history for this. Interestingly, there is not one thread of evidence connecting Hitler to the Final Solution, to the mass exterminations of Jews; however, Hitler created a government where these kinds of decisions by his minions was encouraged and rewarded. Successful tyrants surround themselves with like-minded loyalists, true believers, who will work out the details of their atrocities, and if caught, they will take the blame for the sake of the cause.

  6. Yep and yesterday when Ben Bradlee died the lame stream went on & on about how corrupt Nixon and co-horts were. Amateurs. This bunch is worthy of the old USSR. Change you can believe in-you bet.

    • Yep, I gave up counting how many times “Nixon” and “topple” was brought up in relation to Bradlee.

      By comparison, Obama makes Nixon look like an Eagle Scout.

      (Apologies to Eagle Scouts.)

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