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President Obama Grants Executive Privilege to Eric Holder Over ‘Fast and Furious’ Documents
Holder recently agreed to provide additional subpoenaed documents to members of Congress, including Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), however, the latest move indicates the attorney general has no intention of making good on his promise.
In a letter to President Obama, Holder wrote, “I am writing to request that you assert executive privilege with respect to confidential Department of Justice (“Department”) documents that are responsive to the subpoena issued by the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform of the United States House of Representatives (“Committee”) on October 25, 2011. The subpoena relates to the Committee’s investigation into Operation Fast and Furious, a law enforcement operation conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (“ATF”) and the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona to stem the illegal flow of firearms from the United States to drug cartels in Mexico (“Fast and Furious”).”
“The documents at issue fit squarely within the scope of executive privilege. In connection with prior assertions of executive privilege, two Attorneys General have advised the President that documents of this kind are within the scope of executive privilege.”
Read the full letter here.
The House Committee on Oversight and Government reform is expected to take a vote on whether or not to charge Holder with contempt today at a 10 a.m. meeting.
“The communications in question must relate to the quintessential and non-delegatable presidential power that requires direct presidential decision making. The privilege is limited to the core constitutional powers of the president, such as the power to appoint and remove, the commander-in-cheif power, the sole authority to receive ambassadors and public ministers and the pardoning power,” Issa said referring to the instances where executive privilege can be asserted.
“I claim not to be a constitutional scholar but the house is working to figure out what assertions may in fact arrive and we will take notice of them.”
Issa also called the assertion of executive privilege “untimely.”
Watch some of Issa’s statements at the hearing:
Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) said he “hopes the American people will see this as a witch hunt, as political activity and not the legitimate interest of getting to the truth.” Watch his comments here:
During the hearing, Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) argued invoking executive privilege brings into question whether or not Holder and Obama both were aware of Fast and Furious.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) called the contempt vote a “witch hunt.” She also later argued for stricter gun laws.
“I am horrified that you are going forward with this contempt charge when the President of the United States and the administration has invoked executive privilege,” she said. “The Attorney General is being attacked for protecting documents that he is prohibited by law from producing.”
Judge Andrew Napolitano on Fox News made the argument that the use of executive privilege may be a lose-lose situation for the attorney general.
“If the President was not personally involved, executive privilege does not apply. If the President was personally involved, and they want to argue that fighting drug gangs at the border is a matter of sensitive national security, then they at least have an argument for executive privilege but that would be at odds with what Attorney General Holder has already testified to under oath,” he said. “Then he’d be in a lot of hot water.”
Napolitano’s assertion comes near the end of this Fox News report:
Obama asserted executive privilege for the first time Wednesday. He applied the presidential power to withhold documents a House committee is seeking in an investigation of a flawed gun-smuggling probe called Operation Fast and Furious.
Presidents have the right to invoke executive privilege to preserve the confidentiality of information and documents in the face of legislative inquiries. The White House says presidents have asserted that privilege 25 times since 1980.
Here’s a look at how many times each president since Ronald Reagan have asserted executive privilege:
President Barack Obama: 1
President George W. Bush: 6
President Bill Clinton: 14
President George H.W. Bush: 1
President Ronald Reagan: 3
The Associate Press contributed to this report.
This is a breaking story and updates will be added.