The PJ Tatler

'Fast and Furious' Lawsuit Challenges Obama's Executive Privilege Assertion

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee filed a civil suit in Federal District Court for the District of Columbia today in an effort to force Attorney General Eric Holder to turn over committee-subpoenaed documents related to Operation Fast and Furious.

“While the Committee is entitled to all documents responsive to the Holder Subpoena that have not been produced, the Committee seeks in this action to enforce the Holder Subpoena only as to a limited subset of responsive documents, namely those documents relevant to the Department’s efforts to obstruct the Committee’s investigation,” the 41-page civil action states.

“The principal legal issue presented here is whether the Attorney General may withhold that limited subset on the basis of ‘Executive privilege’ where there has been no suggestion that the documents at issue implicate or otherwise involve any advice to the President, and where the Department’s actions do not involve core constitutional functions of the President,” the suit continues.

“No Court has ever held that ‘Executive privilege’ extends anywhere near as far as the Attorney General here contends that it does. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that the Attorney General’s conception of the reach of ‘Executive privilege,’ were it to be accepted, would cripple congressional oversight of Executive branch agencies, to the very great detriment of the Nation and our constitutional structure. Accordingly, the Committee asks this Court to reject the Attorney General’s assertion of ‘Executive privilege’ and order him forthwith to comply with the Committee’s subpoena.”

Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said that the filing would seek a ruling on President Obama’s 11th-hour action taken by the White House just minutes before a committee meeting that found Holder in contempt of Congress and sent the resolution to the full House, which was approved.

“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,” said Issa. “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.”

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a statement that there was “no choice” left other than to take it to court.

“After providing – then retracting – inaccurate information to Congress, Attorney General Holder has gone to extraordinary lengths to block access to subpoenaed documents and deny the efforts of the Terry family to get the truth,” Boehner said. “The White House has been complicit in this effort to hide the truth by making executive privilege claims that have no merit, which is why today’s action is necessary.”

“…We will continue holding the administration accountable until it provides those answers, and to ensure a tragedy like this never happens again.”

The House resolution that authorized the Oversight panel to move forward with judicial action was passed at the end of June on a 258-95 bipartisan vote.