- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 10, 2016

Congressional Republicans had a benchmark day for transparency last week, winning battles in two long-simmering fights with President Obama, who had been shielding documents sought by Capitol Hill investigators in two big cases.

The biggest win came Friday in a 5-year-old fight for records from the Fast & Furious gun-running operation, when the Justice Department caved to congressional demands and to a judge’s order to turn over records about the botched attempt to track firearms sent illegally into Mexico.

Hours after that move, House Republicans announced that the State Department had relinquished some 1,100 more pages for an investigation into the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya.

Republicans said the delay in turning over both sets of documents was a black mark against Mr. Obama and his team and that the release of the information was a victory for lawmakers’ power of oversight.

Rep. Trey Gowdy, South Carolina Republican and chairman of the Select Committee on Benghazi, said the fact that the State Department is still finding documents to turn over proves that his investigation is making important progress despite roadblocks placed by Democrats, who insist the probe is a political attack on former Secretary Hillary Clinton.



“It is deplorable that it took over a year for these records to be produced to our committee and that our Democrat colleagues never lifted a finger to help us get them. Shame on them and everyone else who has demanded this committee to give up before gathering all of the facts,” Mr. Gowdy said.

The State Department documents include emails from personal accounts kept by top former Clinton aides in defiance of government policy. The emails came to public attention only after the Benghazi probe exposed Mrs. Clinton’s own use of a secret email account to conduct all of her business.

The Fast & Furious documents, meanwhile, had been the source of a fierce legal battle between Congress and the White House, with Mr. Obama asserting executive privilege in refusing to release them.

Congress held then-Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. in contempt for refusing to release the documents. Although his own department refused to pursue that case against him, a federal judge ruled that the documents needed to be turned over — chiefly because Mr. Holder had provided the information to his own inspector general, thus making it public.

With just hours to go before the judge’s deadline Friday, the Justice Department relented, saying it decided not to appeal even though the ruling by U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson had “factual and legal errors.”

Assistant Attorney General Peter J. Kadzik also said the administration won’t let Judge Jackson’s ruling cow it into relenting in the future.

“The balancing analysis contained in court’s order is expressly limited to the specific facts of this particular matter and will have little or no application outside of the unique factual circumstances therein,” he wrote in a letter sent to the House along with the documents, which were released on the final day of the timetable Judge Jackson had laid out for compliance.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, Utah Republican and chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said the judge allowed the Justice Department to withhold another set of documents that Congress believes it should see as it investigates the gun operation.

“As we’ve long asserted, the committee requires and is entitled to these documents. They are critical to the committee’s efforts to complete meaningful oversight,” Mr. Chaffetz said in a statement.

Fast & Furious was begun by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives under Mr. Obama as a way to try to spot illicit gun sales in Arizona, near the U.S.-Mexico border. Agents knowingly allowed guns to be sold to traffickers who shipped them south, where they ended up in the hands of drug cartels.

The administration shut down the operation after the December 2010 death of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, who was shot in an ambush. Two guns lost in the Fast & Furious operation were found at the scene of the shooting. Dozens of guns from the operation have also been recovered at crime scenes in Mexico.

The operation proved to be a severe embarrassment to Mr. Obama, whose Justice Department acknowledged misleading Congress over the matter.

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