Rather than turning over the documents requested by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee regarding the "Fast and Furious" investigation, Attorney General Eric Holder has found refuge in Barack Obama. Obama is now claiming "executive privilege" in refusing to turn over the documents. This led to a most contentious debate on Capitol Hill.
From Fox News:
Rep. Darrell Issa pressed ahead with a committee vote Wednesday to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress, despite an 11th-hour move by President Obama to exert executive privilege over the Fast and Furious documents at the heart of the dispute.
The announcement touched off a caustic debate on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that lasted into the afternoon, as Democrats accused Issa of prosecuting a "political witch hunt" and Republicans stepped up their criticism of Holder's "stonewalling" over the Fast and Furious probe. Even for Washington, the tone at the hearing was decidedly bitter and accusatory.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee was first informed of the president's decision to exert executive privilege in a letter Wednesday morning, shortly before the contempt vote was scheduled.
The Associated Press reports that a Justice Department official claims " the executive privilege applies to documents that explain how the department learned there were problems with an investigation in Arizona of gun-running into Mexico, called Operation Fast and Furious."
At the start of a hearing, Issa called the president's action "an untimely" assertion of privilege. The committee was later to vote on whether to cite Holder for contempt of Congress for failing to turn over the documents. If the panel approved that, the contempt citation would then go to the full House. Technically, if the full House approved, there could be a federal case against Holder, but history strongly suggests the matter won't get that far.
"The president has asserted executive privilege," Deputy Attorney General James Cole said in the letter to Issa. "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."
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, raised another question after the president invoked the privilege.
"Until now, everyone believed that the decisions regarding `Fast and Furious' were confined to the Department of Justice. The White House decision to invoke executive privilege implies that White House officials were either involved in the `Fast and Furious' operation or the cover-up that followed," said Boehner's press secretary Brendan Buck. "The administration has always insisted that wasn't the case. Were they lying, or are they now bending the law to hide the truth?"
The more this investigation goes on, the worse it looks for Holder and the entire Obama administration.