House files suit against Holder over Fast and Furious documents

Darrell Issa holds up redacted Fast and Furious document

The investigation into the Fast and Furious scandal came to a head in June when the House of Representatives approved two separate charges finding Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt. Holder had refused to comply with requests from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to produce thousands of pages of material related to the operation. The Justice Department has only produced 7,600 pages of documents out of the more than 100,000 requested by the committee.

Instead of providing transparency to Congress — and ostensibly, the American people, President Obama invoked “executive privilege,” which effectively prevents congressional investigators from viewing sought after materials. But yesterday, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, filed suit claiming that the Obama Administration has no legal basis on which to conceal documents related to the scandal:

A lawsuit filed today by House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) alleged Attorney General Eric Holder is standing on a “legally baseless” claim in refusing to provide internal Justice Department documents relating to the “Fast and Furious” gun walking investigation.

“No Court has ever held that ‘Executive privilege’ extends anywhere near as far as the Attorney General here contends that it does,” the legal complaint, filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, said. President Barack Obama on June 20 asserted executive privilege in backing Holder’s refusal to turn over some documents subpoenaed by the committee.
Holder said in his June 19 letter that the documents are covered by executive privilege because they are “deliberative communications.” Holder cites legal memos from several previous attorneys general arguing those types of documents are protected by the privilege, including Michael Mukasey, who served under President George W. Bush.

Issa’s suit said Holder is relying “entirely on a common law privilege known as the ‘deliberative process privilege’” because no communications with the president or his senior aides are claimed to have occurred.

Some of the more than 2,000 guns involved in Operation Fast and Furious, some of which were purchased by convicted felons, wound up in the hands of violent drug cartels and have been connected to the deaths of some 200 people, including Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and Customs Agent Jamie Zapata.

There is ample reason to believe that Holder has lied about his knowledge of the scandal, though we may never know if that is the case if the attempt to conceal outstanding information is successful. Recent surveys show Americans backing the House’s position on Fast and Furious. A poll conducted by The Hill in late-June showed that Americans oppose the Obama Administration’s use of executive privilege. A CNN poll last month found that 53% of Americans approve of the House’s action to find Holder in contempt. Nearly 70% believe that the Obama Administration should come clean over the scandal.

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