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eric holder, a privileged public servant
DrMarty | June 21, 2012 at 02:37 amby
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Today, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted 23 to 17 to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress and to refer the issue to the full House. A vote by the full House is expected within one week.
Just minutes before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee convened today at 10 a.m. to vote Holder in contempt for failure to comply with a subpoena for documents relating to Operation Fast and Furious, it was announced by the Justice Department that Holder had requested, and Barack Obama had granted, assertion of executive privilege.
Just last week, Eric Holder had said in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee that he was not asserting executive privilege in not providing the House Committee with documents requested. He has also testified that he has never spoken to the President about Operation Fast and Furious. Furthermore, just yesterday Holder had told the Issa that he would give the committee documents responsive to the subpoena.
Nonetheless, Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole sent a letter to Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, reporting that Holder had asked Obama to assert executive privilege and that "the President has asserted executive privilege over the relevant post-February 4, 2011 documents.
The legal basis for the President's assertion of executive privilege is set forth in the enclosed letter to the President from the Attorney General. In brief, the compelled production to Congress of these internal Executive Branch documents generated in the course of the deliberative process concerning the Department's response to congressional oversight and related media inquiries would have significant, damaging consequences.... Such compelled disclosure would be inconsistent with the separation of powers established in the Constitution and would potentially create an imbalance in the relationship between these two co-equal branches of the Government."
In his letter to Obama, Holder additionally argued that the "Committee's asserted need for post-February 4 documents is further diminished by the Inspector General's ongoing investigation of Fast and Furious which was undertaken at my request. The existence of this investigation belies any suspicion that the Department is attempting to conceal important facts concerning Fast and Furious from the Committee.
Moreover, in light of the Inspector General's investigation, congressional oversight is not the only means by which the management of the Department's response to Fast and Furious may be scrutinized."
Just as Eric Holder previously argued that due process does not necessarily mean judicial process in defense of the President's policy of assassinating American citizens, in this case apparently congressional oversight is not necessary if the administration investigates itself.
The President, who is the only one who can make the assertion of executive privilege, had not himself communicated his assertion to the Committee by the end of today's proceedings.
Before voting on the contempt citation, the committee voted down three amendments offered by Democrats, all of which attempted to change the subject. They then voted to approve an amendment offered by Republican Trey Gowdy, a former federal prosecutor, to the effect that the committee rejected the President's assertion of executive privilege as insufficient.
The parents of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, who was slain in an incident involving weapons given to the Sinaloa Drug Cartel by the U.S. government under Fast and Furious, sent a message to the committee which was read just before the final vote, in which they denounced Holder and Obama for being more concerned about protecting themselves than about revealing the truth.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) issued the following statement:
"Despite being given multiple opportunities to provide the documents necessary for Congress' investigation into Fast and Furious, Attorney General Holder continues to stonewall. Today, the Administration took the extraordinary step of exerting executive privilege over documents that the Attorney General had already agreed to provide to Congress.
Fast and Furious was a reckless operation that led to the death of an American border agent, and the American people deserve to know the facts to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again. While we had hoped it would not come to this, unless the Attorney General reevaluates his choice and supplies the promised documents, the House will vote to hold him in contempt next week. If, however, Attorney General Holder produces these documents prior to the scheduled vote, we will give the Oversight Committee an opportunity to review them in hopes of resolving this issue."
The response to the President's assertion of executive privilege was rapid. Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa said 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?"
During the committee hearings, Rep. Dan Burton said: "The president's assertion of executive privilege creates more questions. The attorney general has asserted on numerous occasions that he didn't know about this; now the President of the United States has claimed executive privilege. And now that brings into question whether Eric Holder knew about it and how much the President knew about it. My question is, who knew about this, how high up did it go, did it go to the attorney general or president of the United States and when did they know about this?"
House Speaker John A. Boehner questioned the White House's claim of executive privilege. His press secretary said that 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. The administration has always insisted that wasn't the case. Were they lying, or are they now bending the law to hide the truth?"
Sen. Mike Lee said: "I am disappointed with President Obama's decision to claim executive privilege over Department of Justice documents relating to the Fast and Furious operation. President Obama has a history of flouting Congress and ignoring the Constitution's directives, from his unauthorized use of military force in Libya to his unconstituional `recess' appointments. His administration's refusal to cooperate with a legitimate congressional investigation is the latest example of President Obama's abuse of power."
Judge Andrew Napolitano said: "If the Attorney General discussed this with President, he probably doesn't want the Congress and the public to know that, because we know about the awful events that occurred as a result of the Fast and Furious escapade. The last time this happened -- 40-years-ago in the Nixon Watergate saga, a federal judge ruled against the President, and the Supreme Court upheld his ruling. We may see this going in that direction now. They can't have it both ways. If the President was not personally involved, executive privilege does not apply."
The Ulsterman Report's White House Insider said: "The use of Executive Privilege by the Obama White House makes a direct tie to the administration now. The perception of that is now the reality of it. Obama owns Fast and Furious. He can't walk that back. It's his. He is telling Congress he won't hand over docs. The line in the sand was placed there by the President himself."
These members have powered this story: