By Paul Sperry
May 21, 2016
President Obama and his former Attorney General Eric Holder are tight-lipped on the Fast and Furious gun scandal -- but a judge has ordered the release of 20,000 pages of buried emails and memos. (AP)
The deadly-but-forgotten government gun-running scandal known as “Fast and Furious” has lain dormant for years, thanks to White House stonewalling and media compliance. But newly uncovered emails have reopened the case, exposing the anatomy of a coverup by an administration that promised to be the most transparent in history.
A federal judge has forced the release of more than 20,000 pages of emails and memos previously locked up under President Obama’s phony executive-privilege claim. A preliminary review shows top Obama officials deliberately obstructing congressional probes into the border gun-running operation.
Fast and Furious was a Justice Department program that allowed assault weapons — including .50-caliber rifles powerful enough to take down a helicopter — to be sold to Mexican drug cartels allegedly as a way to track them. But internal documents later revealed the real goal was to gin up a crisis requiring a crackdown on guns in America. Fast and Furious was merely a pretext for imposing stricter gun laws.
Only the scheme backfired when Justice agents lost track of the nearly 2,000 guns sold through the program and they started turning up at murder scenes on both sides of the border — including one that claimed the life of US Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.
While then-Attorney General Eric Holder was focused on politics, people were dying. At least 20 other deaths or violent crimes have been linked to Fast and Furious-trafficked guns.
The program came to light only after Terry’s 2010 death at the hands of Mexican bandits, who shot him in the back with government-issued semiautomatic weapons. Caught red-handed, “the most transparent administration in history” flat-out lied about the program to Congress, denying it ever even existed.
Then Team Obama conspired to derail investigations into who was responsible by first withholding documents under subpoena — for which Holder earned a contempt-of-Congress citation — and later claiming executive privilege to keep evidence sealed.
But thanks to the court order, Justice has to cough up the “sensitive” documents. So far it’s produced 20,500 lightly redacted pages, though congressional investigators say they hardly cover all the internal department communications under subpoena. They maintain the administration continues to “withhold thousands of documents.”
Even so, the batch in hand reveals the lengths to which senior Obama operatives went to keep information from Congress.
The degree of obstruction was “more than previously understood,” House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz said in a recent memo to other members of his panel.
“The documents reveal how senior Justice Department officials — including Attorney General Holder — intensely followed and managed an effort to carefully limit and obstruct the information produced to Congress,” he asserted.
They also indict Holder deputy Lanny Breuer, an old Clinton hand, who had to step down in 2013 after falsely denying authorizing Fast and Furious.
Their efforts to impede investigations included:
- Devising strategies to redact or otherwise withhold relevant information;
- Manipulating media coverage to control fallout;
- Scapegoating the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) for the scandal.
For instance, a June 2011 email discusses withholding ATF lab reports from Congress, and a July 2011 email details senior Justice officials agreeing to “stay away from a representation that we’ll fully cooperate.”
The next month, they went into full damage-control mode, with associate Deputy Attorney General Matt Axelrod warning an ATF official that providing details about Fast and Furious “strikes us as unwise.”
Then, in late August 2011, another email reveals that Holder had instructed his staff to have an official at ATF “close the door to his office” to prevent information about the mushrooming scandal from leaking.
Talking points drafted for Holder and other brass for congressional hearings made clear that Justice intended to make ousted ATF officials the fall guys for the scandal.
“These (personnel) changes will help us move past the controversy that has surrounded Fast and Furious,” Assistant Attorney General Ron Weich wrote in August 2011.
In an October 2011 email to his chief of staff, moreover, Holder stated that he agreed with a strategy to first release documents to friendly media “with an explanation that takes the air out” of them, instead “of just handing them over” to Congress.
“Calculated efforts were made by senior officials to obstruct Congress,” Chaffetz fumed.
“Over the course of the investigation,” he recounted, “the Justice Department has provided false information, stonewalled document requests, produced scores of blacked-out pages and duplicate documents and refused to comply with two congressional subpoenas.”
Though Obama prides himself on openness, transparency and accountability, the behavior of his administration belies such lofty principles. “Transparency should not require years of litigation and a court order,” Chaffetz pointed out.
Obama insists Fast and Furious is just another “phony” scandal whipped up by Republicans to dog his presidency. What does his heir apparent Hillary Clinton think?
The anti-gun zealot has been silent on the gun-proliferation scandal. But then, she’s been busy sweeping subpoenaed emails under the rug of her own scandal.