There have been some great examples of mainstream reporting on Fast and Furious, but for the most part the MSM has brushed it off as a puffed-up controversy kept alive by Republicans who enjoy antagonizing Eric Holder. Now that President Obama has started acting as if the White House has something to hide, it seems very possible that the long-held conservative suspicions are right — this isn’t a manufactured political issue, but one that could go into much deeper, shadier territory than initially thought.
If Obama was truly concerned about the investigation becoming a political distraction — as the White House maintains — then why would he insert himself into the controversy and throw fuel on the fire?
House Speaker John Boehner is apparently wondering the same thing:
“Until now, everyone believed that the decisions regarding ‘Fast and Furious’ were confined to the Department of Justice,” Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said in a statement.
“The White House decision to invoke executive privilege implies that White House officials were either involved in the ‘Fast and Furious’ operation or the cover-up that followed. The Administration has always insisted that wasn’t the case. Were they lying, or are they now bending the law to hide the truth?” Buck said.
Administration officials dispute the implication, pointing to several cases under Republican administrations where executive privilege was invoked on behalf of agencies.
If Obama’s White House is trying to shield its participation in Fast and Furious or a subsequent cover up, that runs counter to a Watergate-era Supreme Court ruling, which holds that executive privilege can’t be used to obscure wrongdoing. Todd Gaziano writes at the Heritage Foundation:
First, the Supreme Court in United States v. Nixon (1974) held that executive privilege cannot be invoked at all if the purpose is to shield wrongdoing. The courts held that Nixon’s purported invocation of executive privilege was illegitimate, in part, for that reason. There is reason to suspect that this might be the case in the Fast and Furious cover-up and stonewalling effort. Congress needs to get to the bottom of that question to prevent an illegal invocation of executive privilege and further abuses of power. That will require an index of the withheld documents and an explanation of why each of them is covered by executive privilege—and more.
Will the media accept the White House’s defense that it’s simply trying to stop a political witch hunt? Or will Obama’s surprise decision to invoke executive privilege be the catalyst that finally springs this story into the mainstream?