The Obama administration met its Oct. 22 deadline for submitting a listing of all the Fast and Furious papers for which it’s claiming executive privilege for the Department of Justice, giving Judicial Watch — the plaintiff in the lawsuit against the DOJ to share the actual documents — its first look at what kind of stuff the government is trying to hide.
Among the 15,662 documents listed in the “Vaughn Index” the DOJ submitted are some interesting things. The department is claiming that its assertion of executive privilege extends to the wife of Attorney General Eric Holder, as well as his mother.
From Judicial Watch:
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.
The “Vaughn Index” originated from a 1973 case in which the court decided that a government agency could not simply declare some of its documents exempt from a Freedom of Information Act request. The index compels defendants (usually government agencies and their representatives) to list the items it wishes to withhold, along with an explanation of why sharing the information would be damaging.
As of Wednesday, Judicial Watch has only had access to the government’s index for a handful of hours, but here are some of the watchdog group’s initial takeaways:
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 also points out that Fast and Furious may have been supplanted by more recent Obama administration scandals, but the gun-walking scheme that hatched the scandal has created problems that won’t go away anytime soon.
“Guns from the Fast and Furious scandal continue to be used in crimes,” JW wrote. “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.”