After significant deliberation U.S. District Judge Amy Berman has struck down Obama's assertion of executive privilege over documents pertaining to Operation Fast and Furious, the Department of Justice program that allowed the sale and trafficking of thousands of weapons to violent Mexican drug cartels. Berman was appointed to the Court by President Obama in 2011. POLITICO has the details:
U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled Tuesday that the Justice Department's public disclosures about its response to the so-called "gun walking" controversy undercut Obama's executive privilege claim.
The standoff over the records led to a House vote in 2012 holding then-Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for failing to turn over the records. The House later initiated a lawsuit to try to force disclosure of the files.
Jackson left open the possibility that some of the records could be held back from Congress because they contain sensitive information on law enforcement techniques or implicate foreign policy concerns.
President Obama asserted executive privilege over thousands of documents after former Attorney General Eric Holder refused to turn over them over to Congress in June 2012 and just hours before the House Oversight Committee voted to hold Holder in contempt. This is what I wrote at the time just prior to the vote on Capitol Hill:
Just 15 minutes before the House Oversight Committee vote against Attorney General Eric Holder is set to take place, the Department of Justice has asked the White House to assert Executive Privilege for all Operation Fast and Furious documents according to Chairman Issa's press secretary Becca Watkins. Regardless, the vote will move forward. If President Obama decides to invoke executive privilege, it is an indication that President Obama was involved in Operation Fast and Furious, which he has boldly denied. President Obama said as early as last week he stood with "full faith and confidence" next to Attorney General in his handling of the Fast and Furious scandal.
President Obama granted the executive privilege request despite claiming to know nothing about Operation Fast and Furious when it was active from 2009-2010.
Holder was later held in civil and criminal contempt of Congress by Republicans and Democrats in the House for failing to cooperate with a congressional investigation and for refusing to turn over requested documentation.
The next step here is the Justice Department to turning over the disputed documentation to Congress, unless of course the White House appeals the decision.
“Today’s decision will help us advance the Fast & Furious investigation into this administration’s gun running operation. After allowing guns to walk, the administration’s attempt to hide behind executive privilege only adds insult to injury. While the decision doesn’t give us access to all the documents, it is an important step forward. We will continue investigating until we get to the truth," House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz said in a statement.
This post has been updated with additional information.