Controversy

The 'Fast and Furious' scandal: Is Obama trying to cover it up?

The president invokes executive privilege to block the release of confidential documents, and Republicans accuse him of whitewashing an ignominious operation

On Wednesday, President Obama invoked executive privilege to prevent the release of documents related to the "Fast and Furious" operation, which House Republicans, led by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), have been doggedly investigating for years. Operation Fast and Furious (2009-2011) was a botched operation in which U.S. law enforcement officials allowed drug cartels to smuggle guns into Mexico, in a bid to track the guns back to major cartel figures. Instead, the guns were used by the cartels in a spate of drug-related killings on the border. House Republicans have accused Attorney General Eric Holder of withholding important documents about the botched sting, and have threatened to hold him in contempt of Congress. Obama swooped in to protect the sensitive documents, prompting a spokesman for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to claim that the White House "was either involved in the Fast and Furious operation or the cover-up that followed." Is Obama really engaged in a cover-up?

Yes. The executive privilege order proves it: Obama just destroyed "the White House's story that 'this isn't a cover-up' and 'the higher-ups were uninvolved in this operation,'" says Erika Johnesn at Hot Air. The extent to which the president has gone to keep these documents secret shows that they must be "much more damning" than we previously believed. "Oh, the tangled webs we weave!" "Eric Holder asks for executive privilege on subpoenaed F&F documents"

No. Presidents have invoked executive privilege before: "Claiming executive privilege is a pretty standard move for modern presidents in disputes with Congress," say Noreen Malone and Adam Pasick at New York. "George W. Bush and Clinton both invoked it multiple times." (To be exact, Clinton invoked it 14 times, and Bush six.) Sure, Obama himself criticized Bush when the Republican president did it, but parties out of power "invariably denounce executive privilege.""White House asserts privilege in 'Fast & Furious' fight with Congress"

Either way, conservatives will seize on this: "If you didn't like Obama before, you hate him now," says Chris Cillizza at The Washington Post. Fast and Furious "has long been a touchstone for conservatives," and Obama's direct intervention will only fuel Republican suspicions that the president is deeply involved in the affair. Now, the scandal could be a "motivator for an already very enthusiastic Republican base to turn out in hopes of ousting President Obama from office." "President Obama ups the political ante on 'Fast and Furious'"

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