What in the sam hill is in these documents?
Last night, Chairman Darrell Issa declared that Attorney General Eric Holder had failed to provide sufficient documentation or a worthwhile-enough ‘briefing’ to forestall today’s scheduled contempt proceedings. Ahead of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s vote this morning, Holder finally decided to go straight to the top and ask his boss to invoke executive privilege on the outstanding documents included in last October’s Congressional subpoena. From Katie Pavlich, live on the Hill:
Just 15 minutes before the House Oversight Committee vote against Attorney General Eric Holder takes place, the Department of Justice has asked the White House to insert Executive Privilege for all Operation Fast and Furious documents according to Chairman Issa’s press secretary Becca Watkins.
Fox News is reporting that The Most Transparent Administration Ever has granted Holder’s request and will indeed allow him executive privilege to withhold the documents.
President Obama has granted an 11th-hour request by Attorney General Eric Holder to exert executive privilege over Fast and Furious documents, a last-minute maneuver that appears unlikely to head off a contempt vote against Holder by Republicans in the House.
Executive privilege is not a common tactic — the president’s authority can still be overturned (don’t you just love checks and balances?), but this could mean a showdown between our several branches of government. Doesn’t exactly do much to bolster the White House’s story that ‘this isn’t a cover-up’ and ‘the higher-ups were uninvolved in this operation,’ does it?
Regardless, the contempt vote is scheduled to move forward. If the Oversight Committee votes yes (and it looks like they will), that moves the proceedings over to the House. If the full House votes to hold Holder in contempt, it goes to a grand jury, and if a grand jury indicts Holder, it goes to trial.
Updates to follow…
Update: It appears that Eric Holder sent his letter to the White House requesting executive privilege last night, and this morning, Deputy Attorney General James Cole sent a letter to Chairman Issa informing the Committee of the White House’s assent.
Dear Mr. Chairman:
After you rejected the Department’s recent offers of additional accommodations, you stated that the Committee intends to proceed with its scheduled meeting to consider a resolution citing the Attorney General for contempt for failing to comply with the Committee’s subpoena of October 11, 2011. I write now to inform you that the President has asserted executive privilege over the relevant post-February 4, 2011, documents.
We regret that we have arrived at this point, after the many steps we have taken to address the Committee’s concerns and to accommodate the Committee’s legitimate oversight interests regarding Operation Fast and Furious. Although we are deeply disappointed that the Committee appears intent on proceeding with a contempt vote, the Department remains willing
to work with the Committee to reach a mutually satisfactory resolution of the outstanding issues.
Here’s another thought: Invoking executive privilege on this case is going to come off as a very dodgy and arrogant move. But the White House is willing to take on that bad press, and I can only presume that’s because whatever is in those documents… is much more damning than the alternative. Oh, the tangled webs we weave!
Update: The blogosphere has often lamented about the mainstream media’s lack of consistent interest in the deadly Fast and Furious scandal — they wouldn’t want to report too thoroughly on anything that might harm their darling president’s image, you know. But President Obama asserting his supreme authority into the fray has made this the top story of the day. Just search for breaking news related to “executive privilege.” It’s exploding. Heh. No more sweeping this under the rug now.