Obama resists Republican bid to see gun smuggling operation documents

WASHINGTON Wed Apr 24, 2013 3:17pm EDT

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks next to Qatar Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thaniat (not pictured) in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, April 23, 2013. REUTERS/Larry Downing

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks next to Qatar Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thaniat (not pictured) in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, April 23, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Larry Downing

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. Justice Department lawyer said on Wednesday that if a judge agreed to consider a Republican bid to get administration documents related to a botched operation against gun-trafficking it would prompt a flood of requests for courts to referee Washington political disputes.

President Barack Obama is resisting a congressional subpoena for documents related to how the administration responded to the revelation of the failed operation known as "Fast and Furious" on the U.S.- Mexican border. It has already turned over thousands of pages of documents about the operation itself.

Justice Department lawyer Ian Gershengorn told a hearing the matter was best left to the give-and-take of the U.S. government's two elected branches, the president and Congress, and should not be a matter for the courts.

"That is how it has worked for 225 years," said Gershengorn, referring to the ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1788.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson was skeptical and told Gershengorn, "There are three branches here, not just two." She did not say how she would rule, but questioned Gershengorn for more than twice as long as she did House of Representatives lawyer Kerry Kircher.

Kircher told Jackson that if she did not intervene, presidents could withhold documents from Congress at will with no consequence and thwart oversight of government agencies.

The fear about more subpoena cases is overblown, he added. "You will not be flooded by lawsuits," Kircher said.

Both sides agree that the question of whether Jackson will step in goes to the heart of how the U.S. president and Congress interact with each other.

Lawyers cited court precedents from the Watergate era and from a more recent document fight in which Democratic lawmakers sent a subpoena to aides of President George W. Bush.

In a decision that now helps Republicans, U.S. District Judge John Bates ruled in 2008 that he did have the authority to enforce a subpoena by congressional Democrats in connection with the firing of nine U.S. attorneys.

In the "Fast and Furious" operation federal agents trying to build a case against big gun traffickers supplying firearms to Mexican drug cartels did not immediately prosecute low-level traffickers even as they bought 2,000 potentially illegal guns.

The operation came to light after two of the firearms were found in Arizona at the scene of a shooting where a U.S. Border Patrol agent died.

Gun rights activists denounced the operation as part of a broader gun control agenda by the Obama administration and urged Republicans to investigate.

A report by the Justice Department inspector general faulted the operation's tactics but dismissed accusations of wrongdoing against U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

(Reporting by David Ingram, Editing by David Storey)

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Comments (12)
MetalHead8 wrote:
Looks like Obama is trying to cover up his grand contribuiton to gun volience. Lets see these Documents, Since gun volience is on everyone’s mind

Apr 24, 2013 3:51pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
50cal wrote:
obama has lost more than 2% in LIBERAL polls in the past week. SILL covering for fast and furious, Benghazi, and now Boston. He is STILL in contempt of a Federal Court Order with his DOL appointments. obamacare is busting more and more daily. The economy is STILL in the tank and when are they going to get around of putting out the REAL numbers and admitting we are in the second dip? I do believe the Democrats are starting to wake up finally…save the party folks, dump the bum. We ALL need to meet in the middle and save this country. If obama will not join us…….

Apr 24, 2013 4:44pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Timbuk3 wrote:
Oh the irony…

1) Obama visiting the Bush Library – Fast and Furious – was a law enforcement program that the BUSH administration began. I guess the president should demand that all law enforcement re-evaluate all the dumb GOP programs, like he already had to do with their torture program. Obama didn’t know anything about this program, it was run at a local level.

2) Look around at the other articles, GOP complaints that an 800 page immigration bill is “just too big to even begin reading and considering” and “Obamacare was over a 1000 pages, whew, too much big government rules” yet here they are saying that thousands of pages of documents related to this Bush program are not enough for them to make any decisions… even though as a result of this catastrophe, the program was ended by Obama years ago.

Please…

Apr 24, 2013 5:31pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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