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'Fast and Furious' probe: Obama's Watergate, or a waste of time? (+video)

The political fight over 'Fast and Furious' has escalated dramatically. Republicans say it could be as serious as the Watergate break-in 40 years ago that brought down Richard Nixon. Democrats call it a politically motivated fishing expedition designed to embarrass Obama.

By Staff writer / June 21, 2012

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, led by Chairman Darrell Issa (R) of California, right, considers Wednesday whether to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D) of Maryland, the senior Democrat on the panel, speaks at left.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

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The struggle between House Republicans and the Obama administration over the former’s investigation into the latter’s failed “Fast and Furious” gun-tracking operation escalated dramatically this week. Will the House probe uncover an Obama administration scandal as profound as Watergate, as some in the GOP believe? Or is it an election-oriented fishing expedition, as White House spokesman Jay Carney contends?

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Washington Editor

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.

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White House Press Secretary Jay Carney says a contempt vote by Congress against Attorney General Eric Holder is purely political, and that the administration has accommodated Congress in investigating a botched gun-tracking operation. (June 21)

In a Washington, D.C., long riven by partisanship, the split over this issue is now as deep and bitter as they come.

“This is about getting to the truth for the American people,” said the Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner on Thursday.

“This is an attempt to score political points,” replied the Democratic administration’s Mr. Carney later in the day.

Two moves on Wednesday helped power this new polarization. President Obama asserted executive privilege to withhold from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee requested documents dealing with the “Fast and Furious” operation. The House panel then voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress.

Mr. Obama’s move to try to cloak documents with his executive privilege power infuriated many on the right. The administration has already turned over to Congress some 7,600 documents dealing with “Fast and Furious” – an operation in which federal agents based in Arizona lost track of guns they had allowed criminals to obtain in an attempt to trace them back to gang leaders. But Rep. Darrell Issa (R) of California, chairman of the House Oversight panel, in particular is trying to figure out why the Justice Department sent him a letter in February saying the operation hadn’t used such a “gun-walking” technique – then withdrew that same letter, saying it was inaccurate.

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