President Barack Obama has long tried to distance himself from the “Fast and Furious” scandal at the Justice Department, which stems from a program under which Mexican drug cartels were allowed to acquire U.S. firearms that were later used against U.S. law-enforcement personnel. By invoking executive privilege to stymie congressional investigation of the case, the president has placed himself squarely in the center of it.
President Obama, who had been a bitter critic of the Bush administration’s use of executive privilege, today through his representatives protested that he is only doing what the Bush administration did before him. The same man who once accused President Bush of “hiding behind executive privilege” is now hiding behind George W. Bush.
Executive privilege serves a necessary function in our constitutional order, reinforcing the separation of powers and protecting sensitive deliberations within the executive branch, and it is especially strong when the president or his closest advisers in the White House are involved in the communication. In this case, the administration has long denied that the president was directly involved. Instead, Attorney General Eric Holder wasted everyone’s time invoking a spurious form of deliberative privilege that was completely decoupled from executive privilege. Such a privilege has no force vis-à-vis Congress. By finally invoking executive privilege yesterday, the president belatedly acknowledged that his attorney general was full of it.