(WASHINGTON) — Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. said on Sunday “This Week” that he will send a letter to President Obama this week that “breaks down the points” of why the president’s executive privilege claims are “overbroad” or “simply wrong” concerning documents related to the botched “Fast and Furious” operation.
“There cannot be executive privilege over criminal cover-up or cover-up of crime. Lying to Congress is a crime. We have every right to see documents to say, ‘did you know, when did you know, what did you know,’ including even the president,” said Issa, who heads the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Issa outlined Sunday that before the House committee he leads voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt, he tried to reach an agreement with Holder.
“They came with nothing. Not even an offer in a form of a piece of paper. What they said orally was ‘we will brief you. We will then give you the information we believe supports that briefing, but you have to first agree to dismiss your subpoenas and your contempt,” said Issa. “You can’t play liar’s poker when you’re looking for who killed somebody, when you’re looking into this kind of a crime, and when you’re looking into the cover-up. Remember, it was deny, delay, and recuse.”
Issa said he is specifically seeking access to a memo or email produced by Jason Weinstein, Deputy Assistant Attorney General at the Justice Department. The memo, confirmed to exist, is an evaluation of what happened during the “Fast and Furious” operation and, according to Issa, could answer crucial questions relating to his investigation.
On Wednesday, President Obama invoked executive privilege for the first time during his term in office just before a House committee headed by Issa voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for failing to provide documents related to the failed “Fast and Furious” operation that were subpoenaed more than 8 months ago. The use of executive privilege, while a rarity for the Obama administration, was used 14 times by Bill Clinton and six times by George W. Bush.
Holder is the first Obama administration official to be held in contempt of Congress. For his part, Holder called the contempt vote “extraordinary, unprecedented and entirely unnecessary.” The full House of Representatives plans to vote on whether to hold Holder in contempt of Congress in coming days. If the full House finds Holder in contempt, the matter would be handed over to the Justice Department and Holder could eventually be prosecuted.
Guns lost in the “Fast and Furious,” operation, which was originally meant to track the flow of firearms between the United States and Mexican drug cartels, were found near the scene of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry’s killing in 2010, which sparked outrage.
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Ruth Brown, Idaho Press-Tribune
Allie Malloy and Kevin Liptak, CNN
Stephen Collinson, CNN