Friday, November 17, 2017

Obama shielding records not defensible


The effort by House Republicans to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress should be called what it is: hyperpartisan grandstanding. But President Barack Obama's response — to shield Justice Department records from the public's view — is not defensible and undermines the rule of law. The administration should turn over the documents in question or provide further justification for withholding them. The president is not above the law, and his claims of executive privilege will not, and should not, suffice.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is investigating "Fast and Furious," a failed gun-trafficking probe by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that allowed roughly 2,000 guns to fall into the hands of Mexican drug cartels. The committee is seeking documents that detail how the Justice Department learned that the bureau had intentionally let guns move across the border in an attempt to build a bigger case against traffickers. What has ensued is a back-and-forth between Holder and Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the committee. Holder has turned over thousands of pages of documents, but they represent only a portion of those subpoenaed by the committee. As the committee prepared to take a vote on holding the attorney general in contempt on Wednesday, Obama claimed executive privilege in withholding the records.

Issa's quest amounts to little more than an attempt to embarrass the Obama administration, which he once labeled "the most corrupt government in history." Such brash posturing has unfortunately become par for the course this presidential election year. But the Obama administration has been equally at fault in its response. In its letter to Issa, the administration claimed that some of the documents were "generally not appropriate for disclosure" and that releasing them would "inhibit the candor" of executive branch deliberations.

The president will have to do better than that. On his first day in office, Obama pledged an administration of unprecedented transparency. But his actions, including aggressive attempts to root out and punish government whistle-blowers, belie that pledge. Invoking vaguely defined executive privilege for Justice Department records only casts more doubt on government accountability. Of course, for the executive branch to function, some sensitive documents can't be revealed. If the records in question are of this sort, the Obama administration should say so and provide a more detailed justification for withholding them.

House Republicans should drop the political theater and resume negotiations with the Justice Department. The Obama administration should make good on its promise of transparency, or better explain itself to the American people.


Editorial: Good for Tampa council member Frank Reddick to appeal for community help to solve Seminole Heights killings

As the sole black member of the Tampa City Council, Frank Reddick was moved Thursday to make a special appeal for help in solving four recent murders in the racially mixed neighborhood of Southeast Seminole Heights. "I’m pleading to my brothers. You ...
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Editorial: It’s time to renew community’s commitment to Tampa Theatre

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Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

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Editorial: Wage hike for contractors’ labor misguided

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Published: 11/16/17

Editorial: Make workplaces welcoming, not just free of harassment

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Editorial: Firing a critic of his handling of the sewer crisis is a bad early step in Kriseman’s new term

Editorial: Firing a critic of his handling of the sewer crisis is a bad early step in Kriseman’s new term

Barely a week after St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman promised to unite the city following a bitter and divisive campaign, his administration has fired an employee who dared to criticize him. It seems Kriseman’s own mantra of "moving St. Pete forwar...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/16/17
Editorial: USF’s billion-dollar moment

Editorial: USF’s billion-dollar moment

The University of South Florida recently surpassed its $1 billion fundraising goal, continuing a current trend of exceeding expectations. At 61 years old — barely middle age among higher education institutions — USF has grown up quickly. It now boast...
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Editorial: Vets should not have to wait years for benefits

Editorial: Vets should not have to wait years for benefits

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Published: 11/14/17

Editorial: Deputies’ rescue reflects best in law enforcement

The bravery two Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputies showed a week ago is a credit to them and reflects the professionalism of the office.Deputies Benjamin Thompson and Trent Migues responded at dusk Nov. 11 after 82-year-old Leona Evans of Webster...
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Another voice: An untrustworthy deal with Russia

President Donald Trump’s latest defense of Russian leader Vladimir Putin included — along with a bow to his denials of meddling in the U.S. election — an appeal to pragmatism. "Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing,"...
Published: 11/13/17
Updated: 11/14/17