Our View: Turn over Fast, Furious papers
Operation Fast and Furious is one of the worst law-enforcement scandals in American history. It began with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, a branch of the US Justice Department, using a "gun walking" scheme to entice US gun dealers — who are licensed by the government — to sell weapons to illegal buyers connected to Mexican drug cartels. The guns then were supposed to be tracked to the cartels' top leadership.
But the scheme backfired when guns sold during the operation were used to kill Border Patrol agent Brian Terry in 2010 and untold numbers of innocent Mexicans. Attorney General Eric Holder has refused to turn over crucial documents for an investigation by the House Oversight Committee, headed by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista.
The House voted 258-95 on June 28 to hold Holder in contempt of Congress. To enforce that, on Monday the committee sued in federal court.
Holder and President Barack Obama contend the documents are protected by executive privilege. That position, however, doesn't make sense, said John Eastman, a professor at Chapman University's law school. The House is asking for Justice Department communications. "But the White House is adamant it had no involvement in those communications," he said. "Which makes claiming executive privilege odd. They're claiming executive privilege for something they weren't involved in."
Eastman added that the matter could be decided quickly "because this is purely a legal issue that would not require extensive legal arguments." However, if the judge assigned to the case was so inclined, delays could push the matter beyond the Nov. 6 election.
"If the judge rules for the House, then the documents have to be released," Eastman said. "Otherwise, there would be judicial contempt on top of contempt, which could be an impeachable offense." We hope the judge either settles this matter quickly, or Holder follows the law and just releases the documents.