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If House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell
 Issa has his way, Attorney General Eric Holder
will be held in contempt in the dispute over
releasing documents in the "Fast and Furious" program.

Attorney General Eric Holder met late Tuesday night with leaders of the House Oversight committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee, trying to agree over the release of documents in the so-called "Fast and Furious" gun smuggling deal that the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives bureau developed as a means to nail members of Mexican drug cartels. No agreement was reached. Now a vote on a contempt citation against Holder is almost a certainty and President Obama has exerted executive privilege in the case.
The Justice Department requested that Obama assert the privilege in refusing to turn certain documents over to Congress concerning the botched gun smuggling operation. [...]

In a letter to Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, a Justice Department official said executive privilege applies to documents that explain how the department learned of problems with the investigation.

The letter on executive privilege from Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole stated:
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. [...]

The Department has gone to great lengths to accommodate the Committee's legitimate
interest in the Department's management of  its response to congressional inquiries into Fast and Furious.  The information provided to the Committee shows clearly that the Department leadership did not intend to mislead Congress in the February 4 letter or in any other statements concerning Fast and Furious.  The Department has already shared with the Committee all internal documents concerning the drafting of  the February 4 letter, and numerous Department officials and employees, including the Attorney General, have provided testimony, transcribed interviews, briefings, and other statements concerning the drafting and subsequent withdrawal of that letter.

Republican Sen. Charles Grassley responded:
“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.”
If the House committee actually cites Holder for criminal contempt, it would require House Speaker John A. Boehner to schedule a vote. If passed by the full House, the matter would then wind up in the hands of the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, Ronald C. Machen Jr.

President George W. Bush asserted executive privilege six times during his terms of office while President Bill Clinton did so 14 times. This would be the first time for President Obama.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 08:16 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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