On Fast and Furious, Obama invokes 'executive privilege.' What's that?
Facing a contempt vote, Attorney General Eric Holder urged Obama to invoke 'executive privilege' to avoid turning over documents to Congress. To be valid, the claim must bear on a core power of the presidency.
(Page 2 of 2)
Peter Grier is The Christian Science Monitor's Washington editor. In this capacity, he helps direct coverage for the paper on most news events in the nation's capital.
Should Issa lose House panel chairmanship for cutting off Cummings's mic?
Chris Christie CPAC speech: How did he do? (+video)
Hitler remark: Will it hurt Hillary Clinton? (+video)
House IRS hearing explodes. Why such anger? (+video)
George P. Bush wins Texas primary. Return of the dynasty? (+video)
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
In the 2009-10 “Fast and Furious” case, Arizona-based agents of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were trying to build a case against smugglers suspected of supplying violent Mexican drug cartels with weapons. The US agents allowed these suspects to purchase upwards of 2,000 guns without intervention. Some of these weapons were later implicated in a 2010 shootout that killed a federal border agent.
In February 2011, the Justice Department sent Congress a letter stating that top officials had only recently learned about the “Fast and Furious” operation. Justice officials later withdrew that letter as inaccurate. GOP members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee now want documents pertaining to the reasons for that withdrawal. It’s this request that the administration is attempting to block with its executive privilege claim.
In a letter to Mr. Obama asking that he assert executive privilege in this case, Attorney General Eric Holder wrote that releasing the papers in question would “inhibit the candor of executive branch deliberations in the future and significantly impair the ability of the executive branch to respond independently and effectively to congressional oversight."
Republicans denounced the action. House Speaker John Boehner questioned whether the move means that the White House itself, not just the Department of Justice, was involved in “Fast and Furious” decisions.
“The administration has always insisted that wasn’t the case. Were they lying, or are they now bending the law to hide the truth?” said Mr. Boehner’s press secretary Brendan Buck.
RECOMMENDED: So you think you know Congress? Take our quiz.