Until recently, Holder claimed "deliberative privilege" to justify his refusal to comply with House Oversight Committee subpoenas for documents involving the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives "Fast and Furious" program of 2009-2010. The infamous "gun-walking" program allowed Mexican smugglers to walk away with about 2,000 firearms, two of which were found at a December 2010 shootout that left Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry dead.
On Wednesday, as the committee was set to vote to find Holder in contempt of Congress, President Obama protected Holder with a first-in-his-presidency claim of "executive privilege." Obama was not deterred by his previous criticism of predecessor George W. Bush's use of said power.
Holder had had more familiarity with executive privilege than the president. In 1999, Holder worked in the Clinton Department of Justice when the president commuted the sentences of 16 convicted Puerto Rico independence terrorists. During his 2009 confirmation hearing, Holder cited Clinton's claim of executive privilege when he refused to explain why the department switched its position on freeing the 16 FALN terrorists.
Holder also gave the "neutral leaning to positive" recommendation that covered Clinton's last-minute pardon of big-donor fugitive Marc Rich, who had fled to Switzerland to escape federal prosecution on fraud and tax evasion charges. Such are the people whom Holder protects.
Holder, however, does not stand up for politically powerless figures such as Clarence Aaron, who is serving a sentence of life without parole for a first-time nonviolent drug conviction when he was 24. Under Holder's guidance, the president has commuted only one sentence -- despite Obama's earlier criticism of draconian federal mandatory minimum sentencing.
Holder has protected administration officials from Republican calls for a special prosecutor to investigate national security leaks. Holder instead assigned two U.S. attorneys, one an Obama donor, to probe the leaks.
Me? I prefer a DOJ investigation to a special prosecutor -- when I trust the impartiality of the department.
Holder didn't always feel that special prosecutors are bad. When Obama first took office, his DOJ sicced a special prosecutor on CIA interrogators who already had been investigated for their use of enhanced interrogation techniques approved by the Bush administration -- even though DOJ officials had recommended against prosecuting those operatives. It was a vindictive act against public servants who stuck out their necks to protect this country.
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