Obama invokes executive privilege, backing Holder


Attorney General Eric Holder (C) talks to reporters with Deputy Attorney General James Cole (L) after meeting with House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa in the U.S. Capitol June 19, 2012 in Washington, DC. The Obama administration invoked executive privilege on June 20, 2012, to withhold the release of documents related to the Fast and Furious program, while the committee planned to vote to hold Holder in contempt of Congress.


Chip Somodevilla

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform voted along party lines on Wednesday, holding Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress, according to NPR.

Earlier in the day, President Barack Obama invoked executive privilege, backing Holder's position to withhold certain documents from the House committee, according to The Los Angeles Times.

The vote in the committee was 23 to 17 votes, holding the attorney general in contempt of Congress for failing to comply with the subpoena of the documents relating to the Fast and Furious gun-trafficking case.

According to the Associated Press, the contempt citation will now go to the full House for a vote, although it is most likely to end in negotiations.

The documents, which the Obama administration has claimed executive privilege over, pertain to how the Justice Department found out about problems with the Fast and Furious operation, said the BBC.

The House committee is investigating how US agents lost track of hundreds of illegal guns which were released in Mexico in order to trace arms dealers, according to the BBC.

CNN reported earlier that the House committee planned to go ahead with the contempt measure, with chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) saying the White House's assertion of executive privilege "falls short" of a reason to delay the hearing.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, the committee's top Democrat, said the demand for Holder to turn over the documents set an "impossible standard" as Holder was legally prohibited from providing them, reported CNN.

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This is the first time that Obama has asserted executive privilege, according to The Wall Street Journal. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) said, "How can the president exert executive privilege over documents he's supposedly never seen?"

White House spokesman Eric Schultz said Obama's decision to use executive privilege fell along the lines of former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, according to The Journal. During Clinton's tenure, he invoked executive privilege 14 times, whereas Bush invoked it six times.

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Speaker of the House John Boehner released a statement saying, "The White House decision to invoke executive privilege implies that White House officials were either involved in the Fast and Furious operation or the cover-up that followed. The administration has always insisted that wasn't the case. Were they lying, or are they now bending the law to hide the truth?" according to the Guardian.

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The case started trending on social media as the House committee met to vote on the contempt measure:

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