President Obama is asserting executive privilege over documents Republicans are requesting from the Department of Justice in the Fast and Furious investigation.
“After you rejected the Department’s recent offers of additional accommodations, you stated that the Committee intends to proceed with its scheduled meeting to consider a resolution citing the Attorney General for contempt for failing to comply with the Committee’s subpoena of October 11, 2011,” James M. Cole, the Deputy Attorney General wrote in a letter to House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) Wednesday morning. “I write now to inform you that the President has asserted executive privilege over the relevant post-February 4, 2011, documents.” The move is certainly not unprecedented: President George W. Bush asserted executive privilege six times during his eight years in office, while President Bill Clinton did so 14 times.
Bush invoked the privilege repeatedly: to block a Congressional committee’s subpoenas for documents relating to the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to reject California’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, in the US attorneys scandal that brought down Alberto Gonzales, to prevent Josh Bolten from turning over documents, and to protect Harriet Miers and Sara Taylor and Karl Rove and Scott Jennings from testimony.
Issa on March 20, 2012: “We very clearly want to respect the history of executive privilege.”
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) on June 11, 2012: “The only constitutionally viable exception to the Department of Justice`s obligation under the subpoena would be executive privilege. The President hasn`t asserted that privilege, presumably because the vast majority of the documents at issue aren’t related to communications with the White House. Because the documents don’t fit the category of executive privilege, the department is obligated to turn over the documents.”
Responding to Obama’s use of executive privilege, Issa says “the untimely assertion by the Justice Department falls short of any reason to delay today’s proceedings.”
Grassley has also issued a statement decrying Obama’s action: “The assertion of executive privilege 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? The contempt citation is an important procedural mechanism in our system of checks and balances. The questions from Congress go to determining what happened in a disastrous government program for accountability and so that it’s never repeated again.”