Entries in Executive Privilege (3)


Boehner: GOP to Challenge Obama’s Executive Privilege in Civil Court

TOBY JORRIN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- House Speaker John Boehner said on Sunday that Republicans are preparing to file a civil suit in an attempt to gain access to more information pertaining to the Justice Department’s botched drug cartel gun tracking program.

The planned civil suit comes on the heels of a letter sent by the Justice Department stating that the DOJ would not prosecute Attorney General Eric Holder following a House vote to hold him in criminal contempt of Congress.

“It’s not clear to me that the U.S. District Attorney will in fact, go down that path.  That’s why we’re going to file, in District Court, a civil suit, over the issue of executive privilege,” Boehner said on CBS’s Face the Nation.

The Obama administration, in response to a request by Holder, asserted the right to executive privilege several weeks ago, in effect blocking congressional access to documents pertaining to the affair.

Officials at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives intentionally allowed thousands of marked guns to be sold to Mexican drug cartels as a way to track the flow of illegal guns across the border, but came under intense scrutiny after two tagged guns lost in the operation were recovered at the scene of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry’s killing in December 2010 near the Mexican border.

The program, known as Fast and Furious, was eventually shut down and disavowed, but Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee want to know what Holder knew and when he knew it.

“The American people have a right to know what happened,” Boehner said on Sunday.  “Brian Terry’s family has a right to know what happened here.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Darrell Issa Writes Obama to Denounce Executive Privilege Ploy

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Rep. Darrell Issa, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform committee, has sent a letter to President Obama that challenges the president’s invocation of executive privilege as the committee seeks documents from the Department of Justice detailing the Obama administration’s role in the Fast and Furious gun walking operation. Issa first disclosed he would challenge Obama's executive privilege on Sunday's This Week with ABC News’ Jake Tapper.

In the seven-page letter dated June 25, Issa writes that the highest courts in the country have held that the assertion of the constitutionally-based executive privilege “is only applicable with respect to documents and communications that implicate the confidentiality of the President’s decision-making process, defined as those documents and communications to and from the President and his most senior advisors.”  

Issa, R-Calif, then questions Obama whether the White House was involved in a cover-up.

“Your privilege assertion means one of two things,” he writes.  “Either you or your most senior advisors were involved in managing Operation Fast & Furious and the fallout from it, including the false February 4, 2011 letter provided by the Attorney General to the Committee, or, you are asserting a Presidential power that you know to be unjustified solely for the purpose of further obstructing a congressional investigation.”
Issa previously told Tapper that the letter would break down “why the president’s executive privilege claim is either overbroad or simply wrong.”  He maintains that he only broke off negotiations for the documents with Attorney General Eric Holder when the committee “got a flat refusal to give us information needed for our investigation.”

“Our hope is that, as to at least a lot of these documents, including the documents often referred to as 1300, that were offered to us in this deal, that at least since those were offered to us, that…we would see them,” Issa told Tapper on Sunday.  “If those documents say what Eric Holder says they say, we might, in fact, dismiss contempt in either case, but I can tell you one thing here: If we get documents that…cast some doubt or allow us to understand this, we'll at least delay contempt and continue the process.”

In the letter, Issa once again states that he is holding out hope that the DOJ will comply with his subpoena request prior to a vote on a contempt citation in the full House of Representatives that’s scheduled for Thursday.  He also calls on the administration to enumerate “the universe of documents over which [Obama] asserted executive privilege and provide the Committee with the legal justification from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel,” and he makes another run at White House documents.

"So that the Committee and the public can better understand your role, and the role of your most senior advisors, in connection with Operation Fast and Furious, please clarify the question raised by your assertion of executive privilege: To what extent were you or your most senior advisors involved in Operation Fast and Furious and the fallout from it, including the false February 4, 2011 letter provided by the Attorney General to the Committee?" Issa demands.  "Please also identify any communications, meetings, and teleconferences between the White House and the Justice Department between February 4, 2011 and June 18, 2012, the day before the Attorney General requested that you assert executive privilege."

If a resolution is not reached, the House is expected to approve the contempt citation on Thursday in what would become the first instance of either chamber of Congress voting to hold the U.S. attorney general in contempt of Congress.  Last week, Issa’s committee voted along party lines to send the contempt resolution on to the full House.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


White House Invokes Executive Privilege on ‘Fast and Furious’ Docs

Pete Souza/The White House(WASHINGTON) -- The White House has invoked executive privilege over documents at the center of the stand-off between Attorney General Eric Holder and Rep. Darrell Issa, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee investigating the Justice Department's "Fast and Furious" program.

"The President has asserted executive privilege over the relevant post-February 4, 2011, documents," deputy attorney general James Cole wrote Issa this morning.

"We regret that we have arrived at this point, after the many steps we have taken to address the Committee's concerns and to accommodate the Committee's legitimate oversight interests regarding Operation Fast and Furious."

The move comes ahead of an expected committee vote on whether to put Holder in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over the documents. It is the first time President Obama has asserted executive privilege in a dispute with Congress.

In a letter Tuesday to Obama, Holder formally requested presidential intervention, citing "significant, damaging consequences" in releasing the documents and "separation of powers concerns."

The documents "were not generated in the the course of the conduct of Fast and Furious. Instead, they were created after the investigative tactics at issue in that operation had terminated and in the course of the Department's deliberative process concerning how to respond to congressional and related media inquiries into that operation," he wrote.

Holder has said the department has already provided "extraordinary" access to documents and administration officials to answer questions about the incident.

Still, Issa and Republicans on the committee believe the as yet undisclosed information is critical to understanding how the administration responded to the unfolding scandal surrounding program that allegedly allowed U.S. weapons to cross the border into Mexico in order to track gun runners. One of the weapons was later found to be used in the shooting death of a U.S. border patrol agent.

Republican committee members say the documents in question could shed light on whether officials participated in a cover up.

"Our purpose has never been to hold the attorney general in contempt. Our purpose has always been to get the information the committee needs to complete its work, that it is not only entitled to but obligated to do," Issa said today during a committee hearing.

"More than eight months after a subpoena, and clearly after the question of executive privilege could have and should have been asserted, this untimely assertion by the Justice Department falls short of any reason to delay today's proceedings," he said.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who has been leading a Senate investigation into Fast and Furious, said Obama's move raises "monumental questions."

"How can the President assert executive privilege if there was no White House involvement? How can the President exert executive privilege over documents he's supposedly never seen? Is something very big being hidden to go to this extreme?" Grassley said in a statement.

Obama administration officials say the assertion of privilege over non-presidential executive branch communications is not unprecedented.

President Bill Clinton used executive privilege 14 times and President George W. Bush invoked it six times, officials said, including in cases that involved documents similar to those sought in the Fast and Furious congressional inquiry.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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