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Deliberative or Evasive? Obama Asserts Privilege Over “Fast and Furious”

It is the latest example of sweeping claims of executive power and privilege by this Administration. Congress has ample reason to investigate this operation, which involves alleged criminal acts that may have resulted in the death of third parties, including a U.S. agent. The Justice Department is accused of complicity in one of the most ill-conceived and harmful operations in recent years. The very officials and agency accused of wrongdoing is claiming that it can withhold documents from a committee with oversight responsibilities.

The position of the Justice Department on the issue seems hopelessly conflicted. On one hand, the White House and Justice Department have stressed that Obama did not review these documents to protect him from the political backlash over the operation. Yet, it is claiming sweeping privilege over Justice Department documents. It is precisely the type of executive privilege claim that many of us denounced during the Bush Administration. The Administration is left with deliberative process rather than a presidential communication privilege since these documents were not “solicited and received” by the President

In a letter by Deputy Attorney General James Cole wrote to Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the Justice Department refused to turn over the documents on the basis of privilege. The letter was delivered shortly before a scheduled contempt vote. The full House would have to approve the measure for Holder to be held in contempt. 

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