UPDATE: The Obama administration has sent a letter to Rep. Darrell Issa, head of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, informing him that Obama in invoking “executive privilege” in the case, meaning he doesn’t have to turn over the documents Issa seeks because he deems them too sensitive. It is the first time Obama has invoked executive privilege. Bush did it 6 times; Clinton 14 times.***
Republicans in Congress are still intent on making the Obama administration and Attorney General Eric Holder pay for a botched ATF undercover operation in 2011 that resulted in nearly two thousand guns that were illegally purchased at Arizona guns shops—with the knowledge of ATF agents—winding up being used in at least 200 murders in Mexico and ultimately the murder of ATF agent Brian Terry.
Yesterday Rep. Darrell Issa, a California Republican who heads the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said he would hold Holder in contempt if he didn’t turn over more documents in the case, which was known inside the ATF as Operation Fast and Furious—named after the Vin Diesel, Tyrese movie franchise.
Though the undercover operations actually began during the Bush administration and the 2011 operation was initiated by lower-level ATF officials, Republicans have been trying to use the case to crucify Holder and paint him as incompetent because he wasn’t aware of the operation—both Holder and President Obama have said they didn’t approve of it—and gave Congress misleading answers early in its probe. But Holder and Democrats in Congress claim that the documents Holder’s Justice Department has offered to the committee are unprecedented in number and scope, going far beyond what members of Congress would normally be cleared to view.
Holder had a private meeting with Issa, where he sought assurances that if he turned over additional documents, it would also satisfy yet a different Congressional request for documents. But he and Issa were unable to come to an agreement, leading to Issa telling the media he might schedule a contempt vote in his Republican-controlled committee if Holder didn’t fully cooperate.
“We have offered to make materials available … to brief on those documents, to answer any questions that might come up with regard to the documents that we produced,” the attorney general said.
“The ball’s in their court,” Holder added. “We made what we thought was an extraordinary offer.”
“The attorney general has made an unprecedented offer to turn over documents that are part of the Department of Justice‘s internal deliberations and work product and to brief the committee on their contents,” said Rep. Adam Schiff of California, one of the committee’s Democrats and a former federal prosecutor. “Regrettably, Chairman Issa refuses to take yes for an answer.”
Republicans in Congress seem to have a particular animosity toward Holder and always seem to be angling for ways to publicly admonish him—though, to be fair, the U.S. Attorney General historically has always been a favored target of the opposition party.