White House Formally Invokes Presidential Communications Privilege to Obfuscate Net Worth Sweep Decision
- June 14, 2016
It has been evident for some time now that the Obama Administration will go to any lengths necessary to conceal the decision making process that lead to the implementation of the Net Worth Sweep. Last Friday, it made clear in a filing its intent to assert special so-called “presidential communications privilege” over four documents amongst the thousands over which the Treasury has already asserted various other claims of executive privilege.
The documents are a collection of draft memos prepared by, and email correspondence between, then-National Economic Council members Brian Deese, Gene Sperling, and Jim Parrot. Sperling, the two-time former Director of NEC, is now Hillary Clinton’s top economic advisor, while Parrott’s revolving door exploits have been widely chronicled and deeply questioned.
On its face, it is astounding that the Obama Administration feels it necessary to invoke the same level of secrecy over documents pertaining to five year-old discussions of housing policy as has been invoked in cases such as Watergate, the Whitewater and Lewinsky Scandals, and the “Fast and Furious” gunwalking probe. It is even more egregious that it is being invoked neither in a national security matter, nor in a personal political matter related to the president, but instead to conceal the motivations behind the pseudo-nationalization of two of the country’s largest private businesses. That move places every American taxpayer directly on the hook for the multi-trillion dollar mortgage market, and tramples the private property rights of many thousands of GSE shareholders across the country.
In the filing, Deputy White House Counsel Nicholas L. McQuaid argues that the documents must be sealed, because if they are not, then “presidential advisors and their staffs would be chilled from gathering relevant information, exploring alternatives, and providing fully informed recommendations regarding the performance of the President’s duties.” This is an implausible argument given the nature of the topic at hand, and it is made all the more implausible by the fact that Parrott and Sperling have not shied away from publicly discussing their views on housing finance reform since leaving the administration’s employ.
As Judge Margaret Sweeney has already stated quite clearly, sparing public servants from embarrassment is not a valid reason to conceal the government’s work from the public. That certainly seems to be what is at play here. The American people, shareholders and otherwise, have the right to a full understanding of the rationale behind the government’s unilateral decision to effectively nationalize the mortgage market, and they certainly deserve to know whether or not those government officials acted ethically in doing so.