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Issa: Executive Privilege Implies White House 'Fast And Furious' Involvement

This December 7, 2010 file photo shows U.S. Republican Representative Darrell Issa of California, chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Tim Sloan
AFP/Getty Images
This December 7, 2010 file photo shows U.S. Republican Representative Darrell Issa of California, chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

In a seven-page letter (pdf) to President Obama, Rep. Darrell Issa, the Republican chair of the House oversight committee, says that President Obama's claim of executive privilege implies high level involvement the "Fast and Furious" scandal.

Fast and Furious is the failed gunrunning operation that sold weapons to drug cartels in Mexico. One of the victims of one of those guns was U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, who was gunned down in Arizona.

"From the early stages of the investigation, the White House has maintained that no White House personnel knew anything about Operation Fast and Furious. Your assertion of executive privilege, however, renews questions about White House involvement," Issa writes in a letter dated June 25.

Issa also says that Obama's assertion can only mean two things.

"Either you or your most senior advisors were involved in managing Operation Fast and Furious and the fallout from it, or, you are asserting a Presidential power that you know to be unjustified soled for the purpose of obstructing a congressional investigation," Issa wrote.

ABC News reports that the administration holds that even if Obama or his inner circle weren't directly involved, the White House still has constitutional authority to invoke executive privilege.

Last week, Issa's committee voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt. The full house could vote this week on the matter.

The Washington Post reports that the White House is refusing to release some documents because they say they're dated after Feb. 4 — after the operation became public. The documents, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney is quoted as saying by the Post, "are kind of internal deliberative documents that every administration should be able to keep private."

Update at 2:12 p.m. ET. White House Comment:

White House Spokesman Eric Schultz issued this statement:

"The Congressman's analysis has as much merit as his absurd contention that Operation Fast and Furious was created in order to promote gun control. Our position is consistent with Executive Branch legal precedent for the past three decades spanning Administrations of both parties, and dating back to President Reagan's Department of Justice. The Courts have routinely considered deliberative process privilege claims and affirmed the right of the executive branch to invoke the privilege even when White House documents are not involved."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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