As I explained previously, last month Congress began moving toward holding Attorney General Eric Holder in criminal contempt for his stonewalling concerning Congress’s valid inquiry into the Operation Fast and Furious scandal.
Fast and Furious was an Obama Administration plan to allow guns to get into the hands of members of Mexican drug cartels in the hope that the members could be arrested and prosecuted. The plan did not work. The smuggled guns wound up being used by criminals, especially in Mexico, and were connected with the December 2010 death of Brian Terry, a United States Border Patrol Agent, in Arizona.
The first step in the long process of holding Eric Holder in contempt has taken place. This past Wednesday, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, chaired by Darrell Issa (R-CA), voted to approve a contempt citation against Holder, who has failed to comply fully with the Committee’s subpoena and, in particular, has refused to turn over all the documents the Committee seeks regarding Fast and Furious.
In an interesting turn of events on Wednesday morning, before the Committee began its consideration, President Obama asserted an executive privilege as the basis for not turning over the documents to the Committee. This is the first time President Obama has asserted an executive privilege during his Administration.
Since the founding of our nation, the executive branch has claimed various privileges to prevent the disclosure of information that it wants to keep confidential. Courts have reviewed executive privilege claims and have concluded that some claims are valid, while other claims go too far and are not supported by the Constitution.