Last night, in response to an Order from a Federal judge, the Department of Justice turned over 64,280 pages of documents that were withheld from Congress after President Obama asserted Executive Privilege on the eve of a contempt citation for Attorney General Eric Holder in June 2012. The sheer volume of last night’s document production—which consists entirely of documents that the Justice Department itself acknowledges are not covered by Executive Privilege—shows that the President and the Attorney General attempted to extend the scope of the Executive Privilege well beyond its historical boundaries to avoid disclosing documents that embarrass or otherwise implicate senior Obama Administration officials.
In effect, last night’s production is an admission that the Justice Department never had legitimate grounds to withhold these documents in the first place. Approximately two-thirds of the universe of documents that the Justice Department withheld from Congress has now been shown to be well outside the scope of Executive Privilege.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., today made the following statement on the Department of Justice’s document production related to the agency’s cover-up of Operation Fast and Furious:
“When Eric Holder wants to know why he was the first Attorney General held in criminal contempt of Congress, he can read the judge’s order that compelled the production of 64,280 pages that he and President Obama illegitimately and illegally withheld from Congress. Since these pages still do not represent the entire universe of the documents the House of Representatives is seeking related to the Justice Department’s cover-up of the botched gun-walking scandal that contributed to the death of a Border Patrol agent, our court case will continue. I am deeply concerned that some redactions to these documents may still be inappropriate and contrary to the judge’s order in the case. This production is nonetheless a victory for the legislative branch, a victory for transparency, and a victory for efforts to check Executive Branch power. As the production is extensive and may contain sensitive information, our investigative staff will be carefully examining the documents turned over last night.”
Click here for the Justice Department’s cover letter accompanying the document production.