Darrell Issa: Legend In His Own Mind [Updated]
Like Betty, the kerfuffle over Fast and Furious and Darrell Issa’s desperate fishing expedition to root out an early October surprise hasn’t been something I’ve found particularly absorbing. My tolerance for anything to do with proto-Bond villain Issa is pretty low beyond noting last August that he and his department seemed to have an unhealthily close relationship with certain campaigning wingnuts in general, and during the Weinergate affair in particular. Many of the questions I raised at the time were never broached elsewhere, let alone resolved. It’s obviously either impudent or extremely uninteresting to suggest that anyone try to practise some oversight over the Chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. But my appetite was re-whetted a little by today’s developments. Raw Story reports:
Last week, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) charged that by asserting executive privilege over certain documents, the White House essentially admitted it had been involved in a cover-up.
“The decision to invoke executive privilege is an admission that White House officials were involved in decisions that misled the Congress and have covered up the truth,” Boehner told reporters.
This “gotcha!” moment is obviously something that’s gotten Boehner excited. It may even mean he and Issa can rescue their terminally lackluster terms in office after the heady early promises of firm action to expose the Obama administration as the scoundrels they no doubt are.
Now, I recently discovered the Sunlight Foundation’s Politwoops site, which handily preserves “deleted tweets from politicians,” and is affording me some entertainment during my downtime.
It turns out that Darrell Issa spends a lot of time on Twitter, mainly exchanging links and pats on the backs with the wingnutariat and publicizing his many media appearances. Four days ago, which I reckon means during the thick of the House contempt debate on June 20, Issa found the time to retweet this message:
Darrell Issa ( R )
RT @adamsbaldwin: RT @judgenap “Executive Privilege Only Applies If the President Was Personally Involved.” - http://t.co/ebQV5q6u ~ #F ...
Deleted 4 days ago after 5 hours, originally posted via Nu.vi
As you can see, it was deleted five hours later, If you follow the link http://t.co/ebQV5q6u, it takes you to ... a Fox News Insider article.
This morning, the White House asserted executive privilege over documents related to Operation ‘Fast and Furious,’ per Attorney General Eric Holder’s request. Following this move, Judge Napolitano warned that we may be on the “precipice of a constitutional confrontation between the Executive Branch, the White House, and the Congress.”
Executive privilege, in its definition, provides protection over communications with the president himself, according to the judge. The letter sent by Eric Holder requesting executive privilege does not detail a discussion with the president, but Judge Napolitano said, “The implication is there.”
“If the attorney general sat down and discussed it with the president, he probably doesn’t want the Congress and the public to know that,” Napolitano said.
Napolitano also said that executive privilege only pertains to “military, diplomatic and sensitive national security matters.”
“Now, was fighting the drug gangs at the border a sensitive national security matter? And, if so was the President of the United States of America personally involved in making decisions as to how to conduct that fight? If that’s the case, this has reached a different level and we now know why the attorney general has ferociously defended these documents,” Napolitano said.
He continued, saying, “If the President of the United States knew about this, if Attorney General Holder discussed this with President Obama, that would be at odds with his testimony under oath.”
Napolitano concluded, “If the president was not personally involved, executive privilege doesn’t apply. If the president was personally involved, and they want to argue that fighting drug gangs at the border is a matter of sensitive national security, then they at least have an argument for executive privilege but that would be at odds with what Attorney General Holder has already testified to under oath.”
Why would Issa delete a tweet such as this? Was he belatedly embarrassed at having linked to a Fox outlet for expert legal guidance that was presumably lacking in his department? Perhaps, perhaps not. Perhaps it was because of the appearance of this update?
12p ET UPDATE: Chris Wallace just reported that executive privilege does not necessarily mean that the president is involved, but could mean that White House aides were involved. Read more here.
How disappointing this must have been for the self-proclaimed scourge of the Democrats. If you follow that link down the rabbit hole, you end up at this:
Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace joined Happening Now to break down the use of executive privilege.
“Clearly executive privilege is very unusual. It is not extraordinary … it was asserted six times in the Bush administration and most famously in 2007 when there was the big furor over the firing of US attorneys and a Congressional committee wanted Karl Rove, who had been involved in some of those discussions with the Justice Department to testify.”
He continued, “I just got off the phone with Karl Rove. They exerted executive privilege in that case, and would not let him testify. Karl said the key issue there was not that President Bush had been involved in these conversations, but that Karl Rove, as a non-confirmed member of the White House staff, was an extension of the president and to subpoena him to testify was in effect subpoenaing the president. So, this question of executive privilege does not necessarily mean that the president is involved. It can be White House aides who were involved … other people like that.
So according to Chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Darrell Issa’s primary source of legal opinion, Fox News, last week, Obama might be off the hook, but not necessarily his staffers. Oh well. But wait. In an interview today—on Fox News, of course—reported by Raw Story:
The Republican chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Sunday said that there was no proof that President Barack Obama’s White House had any involvement in Fast and Furious, a botched gun “walking” program that intended to trace weapon sales to Mexico.
Fox News host Chris Wallace on Sunday asked Oversight Committee Chairman Darrel Issa (R-CA) if he had any evidence to support Boehner’s claim.
“No, we don’t,” Issa admitted. “And what we are seeking are documents that we know to exist, February 4 to December  that are in fact about [Border Patrol agent] Brian Terry’s murder — who knew, and why people were lying about it.”
“No evidence at this point that the White House is involved in a cover up?” Wallace pressed.
“And I hope that they don’t get involved,” Issa replied.
Amid the rumbling of shifting goalposts, what’s preoccupying Darrell Issa at the moment? His latest tweet:
Talking #fastandfurious with @jaketapper PIC: http://img.ly/jXgn
Can somebody give this guy and Boehner a reality show so they have something more constructive to do as they service their vanity?
MORE: I wouldn’t be so tasteless as to use the phrase “smoking gun” in this context. I’ll just say Oops ...
A chief Republican critic of a controversial U.S. anti-gun-trafficking operation was briefed on ATF’s “Fast and Furious” program last year [in 2010—this report’s from June 2011] and did not express any opposition, sources familiar with the classified briefing said Tuesday.
Rep. Darrell Issa (Calif.), who has repeatedly called for top Justice Department officials to be held accountable for the now-defunct operation, was given highly specific information about it at an April 2010 briefing, the sources said. Members of his staff also attended the session, which Issa and two other Republican congressmen had requested.
Fast and Furious targeted Mexican gun traffickers but was linked to the killing of a U.S. law enforcement officer. Republicans in Congress have criticized the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives over its handling of the operation, with Issa calling it “felony-stupid bad judgment” during a hearing last week in which he grilled a Justice Department official.
At the briefing last year, bureau officials laid out for Issa and other members of Congress from both parties details of several ATF investigations, including Fast and Furious, the sources said. For that program, the briefing covered how many guns had been bought by “straw purchasers,’’ the types of guns and how much money had been spent, said one source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the briefing was not public.
“All of the things [Issa] has been screaming about, he was briefed on,’’ said one source familiar with the session.
Frederick R. Hill, a spokesman for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which Issa chairs, acknowledged on Tuesday that an ATF briefing on “weapons smuggling by criminal cartels” took place in April 2010 but declined to specify what Issa or his staff were told.