A district court judge ruled that President Obama can’t lawfully keep hidden a foreign aid order he tried to shield via a claim of executive privilege, characterizing the move as a “cavalier” dodge of the Freedom of Information Act.
The Justice Department had argued that a foreign-aid directive that Mr. Obama signed in 2010 should remain secret, because it was part of the Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development and fell under the umbrella of executive privilege — despite its unclassified status, Politico reported. But U.S. District Court Judge Ellen Huvelle ruled in favor of plaintiffs — the Center for Effective Government — who filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit for the document.
The judge said Mr. Obama’s order does not fall under the classification of “presidential communications privilege” and trying to claim that exemption — and keep the order hidden from the public — is “troubling,” Politico reported.
The judge, who was appointed by former President Bill Clinton, also wrote in her opinion: “This is not a case involving ‘a quintessential and nondelegable Presidential power’ — such as appointment and removal of Executive Branch officials … where separation of powers concerns are at their highest. Instead, the development and enactment of foreign development policy can be and is ‘exercised or performed without the President’s direct involvement.’ “
She also said she reviewed the document in November and that the order is hardly “revelatory of the president’s deliberations,” Politico reported.
Moreover, the judge issued a harsh judgment on the White House’s regard for FOIA, saying: “The government appears to adopt the cavalier attitude that the president should be permitted to convey orders throughout the executive branch without public oversight … to engage in what is in effect governance by ‘secret law,’ ” Politico reported.