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Grassley asks the President to detail scope of executive privilege claim for Fast and Furious PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Grassley Press   
Monday, 25 June 2012 07:18

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

WASHINGTON – Senator Chuck Grassley has asked President Obama for a description of the scope of the executive privilege claim made this morning for documents in the congressional investigation of the Fast and Furious program, where the government allowed as many as 2,500 guns to be illegally purchased and trafficked to Mexico.

In a letter to the President this afternoon, Grassley asked if the privilege was being asserted only with regard to documents called for by a subpoena from the oversight committee in the House of Representatives that may have involved communications with the President, or if the privilege was being extended to records of purely internal Justice Department communications, not involving the White House.

Grassley has questioned the last-minute assertion of executive privilege by the President regarding Fast and Furious.  “At no point in the last 18 months since I started asking questions has the Department of Justice hinted that there was a potential that the documents might be subject to executive privilege.  That includes a face-to-face meeting with the Attorney General last night,” Grassley said.  “If it were a serious claim, the administration would have and should have raised it last night, if not much earlier.”

In fact, some White House emails involving the Fast and Furious program already have been turned over to congressional investigators, including messages between White House National Security staffer Kevin O’Reilly and William Newell, Special Agent in Charge of Phoenix field division for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

The congressional investigation began with Senator Grassley’s inquiry into whistleblower allegations first made in January 2011 that the government had allowed the transfer of the illegally-purchased weapons later found at the scene of the murder of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.  The Department of Justice denied the allegations to Senator Grassley for 10 months before being forced to withdraw its denial in face of evidence to the contrary.

“We owe no less to the family of Brian Terry than our best effort to get to the truth,” Grassley said.  “That has been my primary goal all along.  It is what motivated the whistleblowers to risk their careers, and it is why I will continue to insist on answers.”

The Iowa senator said the House committee investigating the gun-walking operation was forced to subpoena documents due to stonewalling by the Department of Justice and that the contempt citation is “an important” procedural mechanism in our system of checks and balances.  “Congress has a constitutional responsibility to determine what happened so that there’s accountability and this kind of disastrous government program never happens again,” he said.

Click here to see a copy of Grassley’s letter to Obama today.  The text of the letter is below.

 

June 20, 2012

President Barack Obama

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20500

 

Dear Mr. President:

This morning, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform began considering a contempt citation against Attorney General Holder for his refusal to deliver documents related to Operation Fast and Furious.  As you know, two guns that federal law enforcement allowed to be illegally purchased and trafficked to Mexico as part of that operation were found at the murder scene of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry on December 14, 2010.  I have been seeking documents related to this matter from the Justice Department since January 2011.

At the last minute before the House Committee proceedings began this morning, I received notice that you were claiming executive privilege.  After 18 months of investigation and interaction with Justice Department officials on this matter, this was the first indication that anyone at the Department or the White House believed the documents being sought were subject to executive privilege claims.  Last week, I questioned the Attorney General about a specific example of a document that I and the House Committee have been seeking and whether there could be a legitimate claim of executive privilege over that document and others like it.  The document I referenced is an internal email from the then-Acting Director of ATF to people at ATF and DOJ headquarters.

The Attorney General was not clear in response to my question whether he believed that executive privilege could be asserted with regard to that document or others like it.  Rather than executive privilege, the Attorney General talked about “deliberative process.”  He indicated a willingness to provide that document and others like it, if the possibility of contempt were to be taken off the table.  Yet this morning, it appears that you may be claiming executive privilege over the very same type of document—internal Justice Department communications not involving the White House—that the Attorney General said he was willing to provide.

Can you please provide a more precise description of the scope of your executive privilege claim? Are you asserting it only with regard to documents called for by the subpoena that may have involved communications with you?  Or are you extending your claim to records of purely internal Justice Department communications, not involving the White House?  Please provide a more detailed description of the documents that you are or are not asserting executive privilege to protect.

 

Sincerely,

Charles E. Grassley
Ranking Member

 

cc:        Darrell Issa

Chairman

Committee on Oversight and Government Reform

U.S. House of Representatives

 
The Parents’ Legacy – In The Children’s Hands PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Wednesday, 20 June 2012 14:03

As World War II ignited in Europe, the woman who would eventually bring Eli Nussbaum into the world was already a young mother with a husband and a little boy.

The family lived in Poland, part of the largest population of Jews in Europe before the war. As the Nazis invaded her country in 1939, Bella-Rachel Liebermench placed her toddler son in the protection of a monastery.

Eventually, she and her husband would be transported to a concentration camp, where he would die and she would survive torture and deprivation. She would never again find her first little boy.

That story is at the heart of a new novel, The Promise (www.elinussbaum.com), by Nussbaum, now one of the United States’ premiere pediatric pulmonologists.

“In writing a novel, I was able to truly immortalize my family’s stories because a novel is something that will be read by many more people than just my family,” Nussbaum says. “Having a record of a family, like a family tree or what a  genealogist might prepare, is important, but few strangers will want to curl up on a sofa with that and read.”

Nussbaum says adult children need to think creatively about how they preserve and pass along their parents’ stories. Documenting names, dates and milestones is fine, but the audience for that is limited. Recounting the events that shaped your parents’ lives, and their reactions to them, not only preserves their legacies, Nussbaum says, it can provide illustrative and cautionary tales for the world at large.

He suggests:

• Make a StoryCorps recording: StoryCorps is a non-profit organization that has collected and archived more than 40,000 interviews since 2003. Anyone can share their story; it will be archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress and participants receive a CD of their recording. Go to www.storycorps.org, find the location nearest you and make a reservation. Bring a friend or loved one – someone who will either appreciate your story or whose story you want to share – and think about the story you want to tell. Staff at the recording sight will help you; the process takes about 40 minutes.

• Create a digital slide show with soundtrack: Photos set to music are an entertaining and often emotional way to share a story. Don’t try to tell a whole life’s story in one slideshow – that’s more like watching someone’s old home movies. Instead, choose an interesting time, event or story to share. As you compile photos, music and narration, remember, you don’t want to create a photo album, you want to tell a story. So you should have a beginning, middle and end. Your finished product should be no more than two to three minutes long. Caption the photos with names, dates and places. There are numerous public sites online to share your show.

Nussbaum notes that he wrote his novel after his parents’ deaths; he knew the stories, so he didn’t have to rely on his parents to re-tell them. Those whose parents are still living should involve them in the process, if possible. With StoryCorps, for example, parents can share their stories in their own words.

“The older generations are beginning to pass away,” he notes. “For example, in Israel, where I am also a citizen, a study of Holocaust survivors found that by 2015, 66 percent of the survivors in that country will be over 80 years old, and their numbers will have shrunk from 240,000 to 144,000.

“It’s important to preserve their legacy now. If your parents are already gone, you need to do it before you can’t remember their stories.”

About Eliezer Nussbaum, M.D.

Eliezer Nussbaum, M.D., was born in Katowice, Poland; his father lost his first wife and four children in the Holocaust and his mother lost her first husband and son. He is a professor of Clinical Pediatrics Step VII at the University of California and Chief of Pediatric Pulmonary Medicine and Medical Director of Pediatric Pulmonary and Cystic Fibrosis Center at Memorial Miller Children's Hospital of Long Beach. He has authored two novels, three non-fiction books and more than 150 scientific publications, and was named among the top U.S. doctors by US News and World Report in 2011-12.

 
Fast and Furious assertions retracted a second time; more evidence of interest in press fallout PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Wednesday, 20 June 2012 13:26
Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Justice Department has retracted a second statement made to the Senate Judiciary Committee.  During a hearing last week, Attorney General Eric Holder claimed that his predecessor, then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey, had been briefed about gunwalking in Operation Wide Receiver.  Now, the Department is retracting that statement and claiming Holder “inadvertently” made that claim to the Committee.  The Department’s letter failed to apologize to former Attorney General Mukasey for the false accusation.  This is the second major retraction the Justice Department has made in the last seven months.  In December 2011, the Department retracted its claim that the ATF had not allowed illegally purchased guns to be trafficked to Mexico.  Sen. Chuck Grassley’s letter and the Department’s response can be viewed here.

In addition, the Justice Department released only one page of additional material prior to the Attorney General’s meeting on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.  It is a page of handwritten notes by a public affairs specialist for the Deputy Attorney General, which the Department says it “just recently discovered.”  The notes indicate that when Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein met with senior ATF officials on April 28, 2010, regarding the problem of gunwalking in Wide Receiver, the Deputy Attorney General’s public affairs specialist also attended the meeting. These notes can be viewed here.

The notes indicate that Fast and Furious was also a topic discussed at the meeting, in addition to Wide Receiver.  These notes further corroborate contemporaneous emails in 2010 that show Criminal Division Chief Lanny Breuer and Weinstein seemed to have been more concerned about the press implications of gunwalking than they were about making sure ATF ended the practice. (These emails can be viewed here.)  The notes also undermine the claim that senior DOJ officials failed to “make the connection” between the gunwalking in Wide Receiver—which Breuer admitted to knowing about—and gunwalking in Fast and Furious.  In fact, both cases were discussed by senior Department leadership and senior ATF leadership.

Grassley made the following comment on these developments.

“This is the second time in nearly seven months that the Department has gotten its facts wrong about gunwalking.  Attorney General Holder accused Attorney General Mukasey, without producing any evidence, of having been briefed on gunwalking in Wide Receiver.  The case Attorney General Mukasey was briefed on, Hernandez, is fundamentally different from both Wide Receiver and Fast and Furious since it involved cooperation with the Mexican government. Attorney General Holder’s retraction should have included an apology to the former Attorney General.

“In his eagerness to blame the previous administration, Attorney General Holder got his facts wrong.  And his tactic didn’t bring us any closer to understanding how a bad policy evolved and continued.  Bad policy is bad policy, regardless of how many administrations carried it out.  Ironically, the only document produced yesterday by the Department appears to show that senior officials in the Attorney General’s own Department were strategizing about how to keep gunwalking in both Wide Receiver and Fast and Furious under wraps.”

 
Executive privilege assertion with Fast and Furious documents PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Grassley Press   
Wednesday, 20 June 2012 13:06
Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Senator Chuck Grassley made the following comment about the President’s action today claiming executive privilege in response to congressional oversight of the government’s Fast and Furious gun-walking program.  The congressional investigation began with Senator Grassley’s inquiry into whistleblower allegations that the government had allowed the transfer of illegally purchased weapons found at the scene of the murder of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.  The Department of Justice denied the allegations to Senator Grassley for 10 months before being forced to withdraw its denial in face of evidence to the contrary.

Grassley comment:

“The assertion of executive privilege raises monumental questions.  How can the President assert executive privilege if there was no White House involvement?  How can the President exert executive privilege over documents he's supposedly never seen?  Is something very big being hidden to go to this extreme?  The contempt citation is an important procedural mechanism in our system of checks and balances.  The questions from Congress go to determining what happened in a disastrous government program for accountability and so that it's never repeated again.”

 
Religious Embrace Helping Fuel Support for Gay Marriage, Expert Says PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Wednesday, 20 June 2012 12:28
Landmark Poll Finds More Strong Support
Than Strong Opposition

For the first time, a new poll shows more Americans “strongly support” same-sex marriage than “strongly oppose” it, a finding that could be attributed to changes occurring within organized religions, says a Presbyterian elder and lay preacher.

“For 2,000 years, religion has been the genesis of antipathy toward homosexuals, but now, three major American denominations have approved ordination of openly gay clergy,” says Paul Hartman, a retired PBS/NPR station executive and author of The Kairos (www.CarpeKairos.com), a novel that imagines Jesus as gay.

“Gay has become the civil rights issue of the 21st century,” he says.

The May survey of more than 1,000 adults found a dramatic reversal from earlier surveys: more adults now “strongly support” same-sex marriage rights (39 percent) than “strongly oppose” them (32 percent).  Over all, Langer Research Associates says, 53 percent of Americans believe same-sex marriages should be legalized – up from only 36 percent just six years ago.

“Episcopalian, Lutheran and Presbyterian denominations have overturned centuries of tradition in welcoming openly gay clergy,” Hartman says. “There’s a growing realization that religion can and should help lead us all toward a more mature understanding and acceptance of minority sexual orientations.”

In 2012, he says, there is a new human rights landscape in the United States. He cites these additional recent developments:

The U.S. military joined 43 other countries when it repealed “Don’t ask, don’t tell” and allowed openly-gay service members.

Same-sex marriages are now legal in six states and the District of Columbia. Three other states -- Washington, Maryland and California -- have same-sex marriage under active consideration. Eleven more offer “civil union”-type status for same-sex couples.

A federal appeals court in Boston recently struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (which defines marriage as “one man, one woman”), making consideration by the U.S. Supreme Court almost certain.

Dr. Robert Spitzer, one of the last nationally-respected scholars whose studies lent credence to “gay reparative” therapies, recently offered a retraction and apology to the gay community.

“Unfortunately, the occasionally hateful crowd still resonates with a very small group of people, including those headed by preacher Fred Phelps and congregants, who continue to make news as they picket the funerals of soldiers and celebrities,” Hartman says.

Western cultures’ condemnation of same-sex love appears to have originated from Judeo-Christian scriptures, but contemporary biblical scholarship amends old interpretations, he says.

“That’s why I wanted to tell a religion-based suspense story about homophobia,” Hartman says. “It addresses fear of all kinds, because in passage after biblical passage, scripture tells humans who are facing change, sickness, alienation, death, and everything else: ‘fear not.’  It applies to homophobia, as well.”

About Paul Hartman

Paul Hartman is a retired PBS/NPR station executive with a passion for biblical history. He is a Presbyterian elder, a lay preacher and a Dead Sea Scrolls aficionado. Hartman, a father and grandfather, confesses he is a lifelong fear-fighter.

 
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