Just as the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform was about to vote Eric H. Holder Jr. in contempt of Congress for failing to comply with a subpoena for documents in the Fast and Furious gun-running scandal, President Obama asserted executive privilege and backed up the attorney general’s position in refusing to turn over the material.
The fast-moving events Wednesday morning at the White House and on Capitol Hill significantly ratcheted up a growing constitutional clash between the two branches of the federal government, one that ultimately may not be resolved until it reaches the courts.
The Republican-led committee, chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista), will ask the full House for a floor vote holding Holder in contempt and requesting the U.S. Attorney in Washington, D.C., or a special prosecutor to force the attorney general to produce the documents.
“The committee has uncovered serious wrongdoing by the Justice Department,” Issa said of his investigation into Fast and Furious, in which several thousand firearms were deliberately circulated along the Southwest border and ended up in the hands of Mexican drug cartels. “That wrongdoing has cost lives on both sides of the border.”
Moments before the committee hearing, the White House announced that Obama had formally exerted executive privilege in the matter, giving Holder cover from releasing the material to the committee.