On Wednesday President Barack Obama invoked executive privilege preventing the release of documents related to the federal “Fast and Furious” undercover operation. Following this announcement, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress over the documents, which Holder has declined to release.
The committee seeks more information on the 2009-2010 operation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Arizona during which agents allowed suspected smugglers to buy about 2,000 firearms. The bureau allowed the transactions in attempt to build a case against smugglers of arms to Mexico, but since the operation took place, the guns have been traced to crime scenes on both sides of the border. Most notably, a gun purchased in one of the exchanges under surveillance was used in a shootout in 2010 which ended in the death of a U.S. border patrol agent.
Holder has declined to release the subpoenaed documents for the congressional inquiry, prompting the contempt charge from the committee. On Tuesday, Holder wrote Obama requesting he exercise his executive privilege to prevent the documents from being released. He cited steps the Department of Justice has taken to prevent a similar situation from occurring in the future and why the executive branch should not be required to provide the documents to Congress.
I am very concerned that the compelled production to Congress of internal Executive Branch documents generated in the course of the deliberative process concerning its response to congressional oversight and related media inquiries would have significant and damaging consequences.
The Department of Justice has turned over between 7,000 and 8,000 documents, but the congressional committee wants access to others they have declined to provide.
This is President Obama’s first use of executive privilege, despite having previously criticized his predecessor George W. Bush for using the power, saying Bush had a tendency “to hide behind executive privilege every time there’s something a little shaky that’s taking place.” All of the past 10 presidents have invoked executive privilege, with George W. Bush using it six times and Bill Clinton using it 14.
What do you think? Was Obama right to exert executive privilege in the “Fast and Furious” Eric Holder contempt case?