Calling the government's arguments for "even more time...unconvincing," a federal court has ordered the Justice Department to turn over a list of withheld Fast and Furious documents by Oct. 22. Attorney General Eric Holder had sought a delay until the day before the midterm elections.
Separately, Obama administration officials revealed that Holder intends to announce his resignation this afternoon.
Judicial Watch sued the Justice Department in September of 2012 over its refusal to turn over public documents related to the Fast and Furious gunwalking case. The conservative watchdog group is seeking all of the documents that President Obama ordered withheld from Congress on June 20, 2012 under executive privilege. It was the first time, and is the only time, the president has exerted executive privilege to withhold documents. The privilege was exerted even though the Obama administration has steadfastly claimed the White House and Holder had no knowledge of or involvement in the gunwalking strategy used by Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents under the Department of Justice in Fast and Furious. The agents allowed thousands of assault rifles and other weapons to "walk" into the hands of Mexican drug cartels.
The Vaughn index due Oct. 22 must specifically identify each withheld document, describe the exemption claimed and explain how disclosing it would violate the claimed exemptions. The House of Representatives is fighting a separate lawsuit against the administration for its refusal to release documents but it's the Judicial Watch lawsuit that has prompted the order for release of the index.
In denying the Justice Department's full extension, the judge noted that the Department has known about its Vaughn index obligations since July 18.
[quote][S]eventy-five days—plus another twenty-one, based in part on Judiciary Watch’s consent—is enough time for the government to prepare the index that this Court has ordered, given that this matter has been pending for over two years. The Court will therefore extend the Department’s Vaughn index submission deadline to October 22, 2014—and no further.--U.S. District Court Judge John Bates [/quote]
“The Obama administration failed to game the courts and now will have to account for its Fast and Furious lies. Two federal courts have now rejected Eric Holder’s election-related ploy to keep this information from the American people,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.
Weapons trafficked under the Fast and Furious operation were used in the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. Other "walked" weapons were implicated in the murder of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent Jaime Zapata and have been used in fatal shootouts between Mexican drugs cartels and Mexican police and military. The Justice Department has refused requests by Congress and the news media to release details of when and where walked weapons are turning up.
In June of 2012, the House held Holder in contempt for his refusal to turn over requested documents in the case. Just prior to the contempt vote, President Obama exerted executive privilege to withhold the subpoenaed documents at issue.