President Obama asserts executive privilege in Fast and Furious investigation

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama asserted executive privilege over documents subpoenaed by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in connection with an ongoing investigation into ATF's controversial Fast and Furious case.

In a Tuesday letter, the Attorney General of the United States requested the President take action to protect the documents. 

His request was made on the eve of a vote by the Committee to hold Holder in contempt for failing to provide the documents to the Committee in a timely manner.

"When I balance the Committee's asserted need for the documents at issue against the Executive Branch's strong interest in protecting the confidentiality of internal documents generated in the course of responding to congressional and related media inquiries and the separation of powers concerns raised by a congressional demand for such material, I conclude that the Committee has not established that the privileged documents are demonstrably critical to the responsible fulfillment of the Committee's legitimate legislative functions," Holder wrote.

Rep. Darrell Issa, the Committee Chairman who leads the investigation into ATF's controversial Fast and Furious case, has been trying to gather the documents for several months. He expects they will reveal more details showing which Department of Justice officials knew about the controversial case and when.

"The subpoenas are eight months old," Issa said during a hearing Wednesday morning. "We have not received a credible reason for them to not be supplied."

According to The Associated Press, here's a look at how many times each president since Ronald Reagan have asserted executive privilege:

  • President Barack Obama: 1
  • President George W. Bush: 6
  • President Bill Clinton: 14
  • President George H.W. Bush: 1
  • President Ronald Reagan: 3

Despite the President's executive privilege assertion, Issa pressed forward with the scheduled contempt vote.

"We regret that we have arrived at this point, after the many steps we have taken to address the Committee's concerns and to accommodate the Committee's legitimate oversight interests regarding Operation Fast and Furious," wrote Deputy Attorney General James Cole in a Wednesday letter to Issa.

If the Committee votes in favor of a contempt resolution, the issue would then move to the entire House of Representatives for a vote.

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