On Wednesday morning, the Republican Party and members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee were rolled back on their heels by President Obama’s executive privilege order on Department of Justice files sought by committee chairman, Darrell Issa (R-CA).
Issa has doggedly pursued an investigation into a failed ATF raid for over a year. He started by issuing a subpoena to U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder, seeking documents pertaining to the operation from top Department of Justice officials that might possibly reveal any secrecy or cover-up.
According to a report in The Hill, Holder, has already turned over 7,600 files, attended 9 public hearings, which included 2 before the committee; in an effort to cooperate with the investigation of the botched sting known as Fast and Furious, which resulted in the loss of hundreds of planted firearms and the death of an American patrol agent.
Nonetheless, a contempt vote against the top AG, is still on the table and would likely be passed and moved to the full floor, since the committee is comprised of 23 Republicans and 17 Democrats.
Critics claim that Issa’s obsession with pressing Holder for more evidence is a witch-hunt driven by political gamesmanship and the desire to cast doubt on the claim that President Obama did not know details of how the operation went drastically wrong.
Rep. Ed Towns (D-NY), a former chairman of the oversight committee, was appalled at the disrespect Eric Holder received during recent hearings.
“In all of 30 years of being in the United States Congress the way this (Attorney General, Holder) was treated when he was here testifying before this committee,” Towns said. “I must admit I’ve never seen anybody treated in that fashion.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the current ranking Democrat on the panel agreed and told Issa during the hearings that he was holding the AG to an impossible standard by demanding additional documents he was prohibited from providing, then accusing him of a cover-up, when he did his job by protecting sensitive information.
Numerous GOP leaders took the indignant position that Obama’s executive privilege must imply wrong-doing.
“It tells us there could be a cover-up and the president may be bending the law to hide the truth,” said speaker John Boehner on CNN Wednesday.
However, George W. Bush used executive privilege 6 times, including once to keep documents regarding VP, Dick Cheney’s activities under wraps and President Clinton was also on record using the privilege 14 times.
Democrats see the contempt of Congress move as another play from the GOP get-Obama-out-of-office playbook.
Since becoming Chairman of the Oversight committee, Issa has used his considerable political influence to seek investigations into everything the Obama administration has instigated, including a commission to look at TARP and the financial crisis, FDA programs, Wikileaks, purported corruption in Afghanistan and accusations the Obama administration retaliated against people, who complained about what they considered to be lack of public access to documents and internal records.
Attorney General Eric Holder hasn’t done enough to satisfy one single Republican leader, but most likely, his main deficiency was being chosen by President Barack Obama.