By Chris W. Cox, NRA-ILA Executive Director
On Aug. 13, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform filed a civil lawsuit against Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr., seeking to force Holder to hand over subpoenaed documents about the Justice Department’s response to the disastrous “Fast and Furious” operation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The filing is a follow-up to a June 28 House resolution that found Holder in contempt of Congress for failing to turn over the documents.
Obama administration officials and the Department of Justice had openly defied the committee’s legitimate requests for these documents for months. And in a historically unprecedented maneuver, President Obama claimed executive privilege to justify the stonewalling.
U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif.—chairman of the Oversight Committee—said the president exceeded his authority, noting that “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 election.”
The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, points out that “No Court has ever held that ‘Executive privilege’ extends anywhere near as far as the Attorney General here contends that it does.” It goes on to add that “[T]he 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.”
Commenting to the media on the documents the committee is trying to obtain, U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, said, “There is something either incriminating or very politically explosive in there or they wouldn’t be fighting so hard to hold them back—and they wouldn’t have called on President Obama to exert executive privilege at the last second.”
Rep. Farenthold went on to say, “It’s not so much about Holder and the Justice Department and ‘Fast and Furious’ at this point. This is a test of the oversight authority of Congress and our power to get documents from the Executive Branch. If we can’t get the documents we need from the agencies that we create and fund, I think our Republic is in grave danger.”