President Barack Obama decided to up the stakes of the game on Wednesday morning, sending notice to Representative Darrell Issa of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that the documents he requested from Attorney General Eric Holder are considered off limits due to Executive Privilege. The documents Issa wants pertain to the Fast and Furious gun walking program. The controversial move comes at a time where Issa was set to hold Holder in Contempt of Congress for not handing over the documents.
Executive Privilege allows the President to refuse to turn over documents to the legislative and judicial branches of government if the White house deems them to be sensitive. After this decision it will be the Obama Administration themselves who will decide which documents to hand over.
The move does not come without an enormous amount of risk for the President. The Republicans are already questioning why an investigation of the Justice Department is now falling under the domain of Executive Privilege.
Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner said in a statement,
“Until now, everyone believed that the decisions regarding ‘Fast and Furious’ were confined to the Department of Justice. The White House decision to invoke executive privilege implies that White House officials were either involved in the ‘Fast and Furious’ operation or the cover-up that followed. The Administration has always insisted that wasn’t the case. Were they lying, or are they now bending the law to hide the truth?”
Representative Issa says the move by the White House will not change his decision to initiate a move in Congress to hold the Attorney General in Contempt of Congress. Issa said that Obama’s decision “falls short of any reason to delay today’s proceedings.”.