WASHINGTON, June 20, 2012 — Attorney General Eric Holder asked Tuesday for President Obama to exert executive privilege over documents pertaining to the Justice Department’s botched “Fast and Furious” gun running operation.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, was informed today that the president granted Holder’s request.
The documents in question date from February, 2011 and after, and are believed to contain information about when and how Justice Department officials learned of the botched operation. Last minute meetings between House and Justice Department officials failed to resolve an impasse that dates back to October. Holder’s offer to brief Issa on the documents but not turn them over to the Committee was unacceptable to Issa, who has threatened Holder with contempt.
Issa’s committee is likely to find Holder in contempt despite Obama’s action. If they do, the issue will have to be voted on by the entire House. Deputy Attorney General James Cole wrote the letter informing Issa of the decision on executive privilege, saying, “We regret that we have arrived at this point, after the many steps we have taken to address the committee’s concerns and to accommodate the committee’s legitimate oversight interests regarding Operation Fast and Furious. Although we are deeply disappointed that the committee appears intent on proceeding with a contempt vote, the department remains willing to work with the committee to reach a mutually satisfactory resolution of the outstanding issues.”
According to Issa, “The only offer they made involved us ending our investigation.” Holder has claimed that his concern is that the investigation has consumed a great deal of DoJ time and resources, and he wanted assurance from Issa that information from the requested documents would satisfy the demands of the Committee’s subpoena. That would leave the Committee in a difficult position if the information contained raised further questions that could not be answered by the documents.
If a criminal contempt citation proceeds, it will pass with a simple majority vote of the House. It will then be passed on to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, who will take it to a grand jury.
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