Just moments before Attorney General Eric Holder was voted in contempt of Congress by Republicans and Democrats in June 2012 , President Obama asserted executive privilege over thousands of documents related to Operation Fast and Furious. Holder was held in contempt for stonewalling and failing to turn over the documents to the House Oversight Committee. Obama granted the executive privilege request despite claiming to have no knowledge about Operation Fast and Furious when it was active from 2009-2010.
Four years after asserting executive privilege to block Congress from obtaining documents relating to a controversial federal gun trafficking investigation, President Barack Obama relented Friday, turning over to lawmakers thousands of pages of records that led to unusual House votes holding Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt in 2012.
Justice Department spokesman Patrick Rodenbush confirmed that the administration does not plan to appeal. He argued that Jackson's ruling validated Obama's initial claim of privilege.
“The Department of Justice is pleased that the district court ... continued to recognize that the deliberative process component of the executive privilege exists and was a valid basis for the Department to withhold certain documents when requested by the House in 2011. Although the Department disagrees with the district court's conclusion that the privilege was overcome in this particular case by disclosures and statements made in other contexts, the Department has decided not to appeal the court’s judgment and has provided a production of documents to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform," Rodenbush said in a statement.
“As we've long asserted, the Committee requires and is entitled to these documents. They are critical to the Committee’s efforts to complete meaningful oversight. The Committee has a duty to understand and shine light on what was happening inside DOJ during the time of this irresponsible operation. Yet DOJ has obstructed our investigative work for years," House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz issued in a statement. "Today, under court order, DOJ turned over some of the subpoenaed documents. The Committee, however, is entitled to the full range of documents for which it brought this lawsuit. Accordingly, we have appealed the District Court’s ruling in order to secure those additional documents.”
Operation Fast and Furious was an ATF and Department of Justice program that purposely allowed the sale and trafficking of thousands of weapons to violent Mexican drug cartels. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed by Mexican bandits in December 2010 and guns from the operation were found at the murder scene. When Sinaloa cartel leader El Chapo Guzman was captured last year, guns from the operation, including a .50 caliber rifle that was used to shoot at a police helicopter, were found in his hideout. Hundreds of Mexican citizens have been killed as a result of the program and thousands of guns are still missing and being used to carry out violent crimes in Mexico and potentially in the United States.
This post has been updated with additional information.