President Barack Obama asserted executive privilege on documents related to the Justice Department’s response to congressional inquires about the botched ATF operation known as Fast and Furious on Wednesday.
The move came just as the House Oversight Committee began proceedings on a vote on a resolution finding Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress.
“In view of the significant confidentiality and separation of powers concerns raised by the Committee’s demand for internal documents generating in response to the Committee’s investigation, we consider the Department’s accomodations regarding the prepartion of the February 4 letter to have been extraordinary,” Holder wrote in a letter to the White House. “Despite these accommodations, however, the Committee scheduled a vote on its contempt resolution.”
Deputy Attorney General James Cole wrote a letter to Issa informing him that the White House had asserted executive privilege on Wednesday. Cole wrote that DOJ had “substantially complied with the outstanding subpoena.”
“The documents responsive to the remaining subpoena items pertain to sensitive law enforcement activities, including ongoing criminal investigations and prosecutions, or were generated by Department officials in the course of responding to congressional investigations or media inquiries about this matter that are generally not appropriate for disclosure,” Cole wrote.
Cole said that producing the documents would “inhibit the candor of such Executive Branch deliberations in the future and significantly impair the Executive Branch’s ability to respond independently and effectively to congressional oversight.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), ranking member of the Oversight Committee, told Issa it seemed “clear you had no interest in resolving this issue.”
“Mr. Chairman, it did not have to be this way. It really didn’t,” Cummings said.