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Darrell Issa
Darrell Issa (Western Journalism Center)
Rep. Darrell Issa sent a seven-page letter to the White House Monday taking issue with President Obama's assertion of executive privilege over documents related to the government's actions in the "Fast and Furious" case. Administration spokesman Eric Schultz has delivered a brief, serrated reply.

Issa, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, wrote that the invoking of executive privilege was unjustified and merely "for the purpose of further obstructing a congressional investigation":

[Y]our privilege assertion means one of two things. Either you or your most senior advisors were involved in managing Operation Fast & Furious and the fallout from it, including the false February 4, 2011 letter provided by the Attorney General to the Committee, or, you are asserting a Presidential power that you know to be unjustified solely for the purpose of further obstructing a congressional investigation. To date, the White House has steadfastly maintained that it has not had any role in advising the Department with respect to the congressional investigation. The surprising assertion of executive privilege raised the question of whether that is still the case.
Said Schultz:
The Congressman’s analysis has as much merit as his absurd contention that Operation Fast and Furious was created in order to promote gun control. Our position is consistent with Executive Branch legal precedent for the past three decades spanning Administrations of both parties, and dating back to President Reagan’s Department of Justice. The Courts have routinely considered deliberative process privilege claims and affirmed the right of the executive branch to invoke the privilege even when White House documents are not involved.
In a party-line vote of 23-17, the Oversight Committee last week approved a contempt citation against Attorney General Eric Holder on the grounds he has withheld documents necessary for the committee to complete its investigation of Fast and Furious.

At issue is release of documents and communications related to the administration's actions in a program by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that allowed guns bought by straw buyers in the United States to be passed along to members of violent Mexican drug gangs. The idea was to build cases against both the straw buyers and the drug lords that would otherwise have been difficult or impossible. What happened, however, is that the ATF lost track of many of the firearms, and some of them were used to kill people, perhaps as many as 150 Mexicans, according to authorities there, and one U.S. Border Patrol agent, Brian Terry.

The program was similar to one first developed by the Bush administration in 2006. Hundreds of weapons in that operation, known as "Wide Receiver," also went missing before the program was shut down. The Oversight Committee has not sought the testimony of members of the Bush administration, including Alberto Gonzales, who was attorney general when Wide Receiver was initiated.

A vote of the full House on the committee's contempt resolution against Holder is slated for Thursday. If the majority approves, it would be the first time ever that a chamber of Congress has cited an attorney general for contempt.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Tue Jun 26, 2012 at 08:30 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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