While some pundits compare President Obama’s actions this week to the Watergate cover-up of the Nixon administration, Iowa Senator Tom Harkin says the flap over the Fast and Furious case is “just pure politics.” Harkin, a Democrat, says President Obama’s refusal to turn over documents in the international weapons case does not merit the attention it’s getting and he says Republicans have made “a mountain out of a molehill.”
“This is normal for any president to exert executive privilege over certain documents that they feel are covered by that,” Harkin says. “President Bush did it. President Clinton did it. The first President Bush did it. Reagan did it. As long as I’ve been here, every president’s done that.”
A U.S. House committee is investigating the gunrunning case that led to the death of a U-S Border Patrol agent. The committee requested some 13-hundred pages of documents which it hoped would answer questions about the operation and the death. That’s when President Obama evoked the executive privilege action and refused to turn them over. Harkin says it was a justifiable action.
“Presidents do this all the time,” Harkin says. “Will Obama get in trouble for it? Well, I don’t know. Did Bush get in trouble for it or Clinton or people like that? These are things that happen. They blow up, they get some press and then you kind of move on and you wonder, ‘What was that all about?'”
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has voted to recommend holding U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress. Some have suggested Holder could be even arrested. Harkin says that’s ridiculous, saying the attorney general has been “very forthcoming” in his actions.
Harkin says, “The Justice Department has produced over 7,600 pages of documents, testified at 11 hearings on this Fast and Furious situation and then given the fact this was initiated, really, under the Bush administration and continued under Obama, but it was Holder who put an end to it.”
Iowa’s other U.S. Senator, Republican Chuck Grassley, released a statement saying: “The White House press secretary’s statement that the administration has ‘provided Congress every document that pertains to the operation itself’ is hogwash. Through my investigation, I know there are reams of documents that the Justice Department has refused to turn over to Congress.”
Grassley’s statement also says: “The accusation that I’m motivated by a desire for a ‘political scalp’ is baseless. Yes, I want the responsible people held accountable. An American agent died because of government policy and practice, and that can’t go unanswered. Whenever the government does damage, credibility demands telling the full story and taking appropriate action. Inaction erodes trust in government.”