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Tipsheet

Fast and Furious: Mr. Holder, You've Been Served

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has officially filed civil contempt of Congress charges against Attorney General Eric Holder in the United States Federal District Court for the District of Columbia. The 56 page long complaint  asks a judge to rule against Holder and against President Obama's assertion of executive privilege over Fast and Furious documents.

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“President Obama exceeded his authority by asserting executive privilege over subpoenaed documents related to the Justice Department’s cover-up of Operation Fast and Furious,” Chairman of the House Oversight Committee Darrell Issa said in a statement.  “Waiting nearly eight months after the subpoena had been issued to assert a meritless claim of privilege, the President’s decision was a calculated political maneuver designed to stop the release of documents until after November’s elections.  After promising an unprecedented level of transparency, the President is attempting to expand the reach of executive privilege to obstruct the truth about the reckless conduct that contributed to the death of a Border Patrol Agent and countless Mexican citizens.  The family of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, whistleblowers who faced retaliation for exposing the Justice Department’s reckless tactics, and the public have a right to know the full extent of what occurred.”

From the complaint:

Plaintiff Committee on Oversight and Government Reform of the United States House of Representatives (“Committee” or “Oversight Committee”) brings this civil action against Defendant Eric H. Holder, Jr., Attorney General of the United States, to enforce a duly authorized, issued and served Committee subpoena for documents, namely, the Subpoena to the Honorable Eric H. Holder, Jr., Att’y Gen. of the United States (Oct. 11, 2011) (“Holder Subpoena”), attached as Exhibit A. This lawsuit, which is expressly authorized by the United States House of Representatives (“House”), arises out of:

?the obstruction by the U.S. Department of Justice (“Department” or “DOJ”) of an Oversight Committee investigation – an investigation the Department has acknowledged is appropriate and legitimate – of a now-discredited DOJ law- enforcement operation known as “Operation Fast and Furious”;
?the Attorney General’s contumacious refusal to comply with the Holder Subpoena, in particular, his refusal to produce documents that would enable the Committee (and the American people) to understand how and why the Department provided false information to Congress and otherwise obstructed the Committee’s concededly-legitimate investigation into Operation Fast and Furious;
?the President’s assertion – not directly, but through the Deputy Attorney General – of “Executive privilege” as to some unproduced documents that are of particular interest to the Committee;1 and
?the Committee’s need for those documents – documents it cannot obtain elsewhere – in order to discharge its Article I responsibility to conduct oversight over the Department so that the Committee, and the Congress more generally, may determine whether the Department’s malfeasance warrants additions to, or changes in, existing federal laws.

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So what's next? A judge will rule on whether Holder must comply with the subpoena and whether Obama's assertion of executive privilege is valid. If the judge rules Holder must comply and strikes down Obama's executive privilege, Holder will most likely appeal it, putting up a long court battle. If a judge rules in favor of Holder and Obama, things will stay as they are: zero transparency.

 

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