California Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff admitted on Wednesday that “government misconduct” took place in the execution and explanation of Operation Fast and Furious — an admission that could undercut President Barack Obama’s assertion of executive privilege.
In a letter to Obama earlier this week, House oversight committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa laid out how Obama’s assertion of executive privilege to keep withholding Fast and Furious documents from Congress “means one of two things”: “Either you or your most senior advisors were involved in managing Operation Fast & Furious and the fallout from it, including the false February 4, 2011 letter provided by the attorney general to the committee, or, you are asserting a presidential power that you know to be unjustified solely for the purpose of further obstructing a congressional investigation.”
That’s because, as Issa points out, the president can’t legally assert privilege over “deliberative documents between and among department personnel who lack the requisite ‘operational proximity’ to the president” because, according to the Congressional Research Service, courts have determined that privilege over deliberative documents “disappears altogether when there is any reason to believe government misconduct has occurred.”
Schiff, a leading advocate against holding Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress on Thursday, replied “absolutely” when The Daily Caller asked him at a Wednesday press conference if “government misconduct” took place at anytime during the scandal. Schiff’s statement undermines the president’s assertion of privilege over the documents, though that decision will ultimately be left to a federal judge.
“The botched gun operations themselves are deeply disturbing,” Schiff went on. “The idea that anyone within ATF or Justice would think that we could allow weapons to walk into Mexico and then somehow try to keep track of them and follow them to their source as a legitimate investigative technique – that is terrible judgment and folks responsible should be held accountable. And, there was a letter that contained inaccuracies that was sent to the House, which also is the subject of a proper investigation. The Justice Department has turned over the documents, all that have been requested on those issues. So, yes, we all acknowledge there are legitimate origins to this investigation but I think it has been untethered from that legitimate origin.”