Obama Invokes Executive Privilege Over Fast and Furious Documents

• Panel votes to hold attorney general in contempt of Congress
• Holder could avoid hearing by providing missing documents

As this newspaper was going to press, a critically important vote was reached by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee led by Representative Darrell Issa (R-Calif.). The committee voted 23 in favor of contempt; 17 voted against it, all along party lines.

The panel had convened June 20 to consider holding Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for failing to produce subpoenaed documents related to the infamous Operation Fast and Furious. The federal program involved a dangerous “gun-walking” scheme to run thousands of high-powered firearms to Mexican drug cartels, claiming that by doing so, the cartels could be monitored and intelligence gathered. A committee news release noted that the documents Holder failed to produce were “specified in the committee’s October 12, 2011, subpoena.”

GOP Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina swung the hardest during June 20’s deliberations, demanding that Holder turn over the documents. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) claimed this operation only involved rogues in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and not anyone higher up.


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The 7,000 documents that have been released are less than 10% of all documents sought, Rep. Frank Gunta (R-N.H.) noted. The remaining documents may confirm how high up in the Obama administration this matter goes.

Holder continued to stonewall, though, claiming executive privilege.

“Either we have the right to the documents . . . all of them . . . or we have no business here,” said Gowdy. “I call for Mr. Holder’s resignation,” Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) said—twice.

Tasked with unraveling a debacle that could easily dwarf Watergate, Issa issued a statement on why he scheduled the vote:

“Attorney General Holder has failed to meet his legal obligations pursuant to the October 12 subpoena. House leaders reiterated this failure in a May 18, 2012 letter. Specifically, the Justice Department has refused to turn over critical documents on the grounds that they show internal [Justice] Department deliberations and were created after February 4, 2011—the date Justice issued a false denial to Congress. Contempt will focus on the failure to provide these . . . documents.”

Issa also noted, “If the attorney general decides to produce these subpoenaed documents, I am confident we can reach agreement on other materials and render the process of contempt unnecessary.”

Let’s hope the committee’s actions aren’t all show and no substance, since Fast and Furious led to the death of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry. The federal agent was fatally shot with one of the smuggled firearms in late 2010 while on duty.

For more information, see Fast and Furious Investigation. To contact the committee, call 202-225-5074 or 225-5051.