Obama bars Congress from obtaining Fast and Furious papers

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder (Reuters / Jonathan Ernst)
US President Barack Obama has intervened in a Capital Hill probe centered on Attorney General Eric Holder, asserting executive privilege to keep documents linked to the Fast and Furious gun smuggling operation withheld from Congress.

In the midst of an investigation being spearheaded by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, President Obama once more departed from his campaign promise of a transparent presidency by granting executive privilege on behalf of Holder early Wednesday to keep Congress from obtaining documents involved in the gunwalking scheme. The House committee was considering charging Holder with being in contempt of Congress for refusing to release documents to the panel, to which the White House responded on Wednesday by allowing the attorney general to go ahead with his refusal.

Attorney General Holder appealed to President Obama for assistance on Tuesday following a lengthy Capitol Hill hearing. On Wednesday, Deputy Attorney General James Cole informed Rep. Darrell Issa (R-California) the president has granted the request, a practice fairly uncommon since being legitimized by the Supreme Court during the Nixon administration when that president refused to comply with congressional demands.

Nonetheless, Rep. Issa has remained adamant about obtaining information that the panel considers being crucial into the botched gun smuggling ring orchestrated by the Justice Department. Holder, however, insists that the documents being demanded by Congress pertain to the "deliberative process" on how to handle congressional and media inquiries and are unfit for release.

"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," Cole’s letter reads. "Although we are deeply disappointed that the committee appears intent on proceeding with a contempt vote, the department remains willing to work with the committee to reach a mutually satisfactory resolution of the outstanding issues."

During a Tuesday meeting between Holder and the House, Rep. Issa told reporters that the attorney general brief the panel on the contents of the documents but was persistent with keeping them from being released.

"We want the documents. Brian Terry's family would like the documents that are responsive to how in fact their son was gunned down with weapons that came from lawful dealers but at the … behest of the Justice Department," Issa told Fox News.

Earlier Issa had said, "We're not looking to hold people responsible. We're looking for document production."

On Wednesday, Rep. Issa implied that the House committee would continue to go about their investigation, tweeting, "Prepping for #contempt proceedings against #Holder for #FastAndFurious stonewalling. Didn't have to be this way, but we'll do our duty.”