House oversight committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa filed a 41-page civil contempt of Congress lawsuit against Attorney General Eric Holder Monday, alleging that the Obama administration must turn over documents related to the Operation Fast and Furious scandal. A bipartisan group of House members approved contempt resolutions against Holder on June 28 for his failure to comply with a congressional subpoena related to those documents and other information.
Issa said Monday that he thinks “President Obama exceeded his authority by asserting executive privilege over subpoenaed documents related to the Justice Department’s cover-up of Operation Fast and Furious.”
House Speaker John Boehner added that his chamber of Congress was left with “no choice but to take legal action so we can get to the bottom of the Fast and Furious operation that cost border agent Brian Terry his life.”
Holder’s Department of Justice directed Ronald Machen, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, to not enforce the criminal contempt resolution. Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley and others have argued that the move showed Machen is incapable of making decisions independent of political influence. Grassley has also said such a politically compromised prosecutor should not be investigating the national security leaks scandal running in parallel with Fast and Furious. (RELATED: The Daily Caller’s complete coverage of Operation Fast and Furious)
The congressional civil contempt resolution was approved because of fears that Machen couldn’t separate politics from the law. That resolution allowed for Issa’s team to hire attorneys, and provided for resources to sue the administration over the release of documents Congress has not yet seen.
Those contempt votes came shortly after President Barack Obama asserted executive privilege over the documents.
“Waiting nearly eight months after the subpoena had been issued to assert a meritless claim of privilege, the President’s decision was a calculated political maneuver designed to stop the release of documents until after November’s elections,” Issa added.
“After promising an unprecedented level of transparency, the President is attempting to expand the reach of executive privilege to obstruct the truth about the reckless conduct that contributed to the death of a Border Patrol Agent and countless Mexican citizens. The family of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, whistle-blowers who faced retaliation for exposing the Justice Department’s reckless tactics, and the public have a right to know the full extent of what occurred.”
Boehner added in a statement that “[a]fter providing — then retracting — inaccurate information to Congress, Attorney General Holder has gone to extraordinary lengths to block access to subpoenaed documents and deny the efforts of the Terry family to get the truth.”
“The White House,” the speaker said, “has been complicit in this effort to hide the truth by making executive privilege claims that have no merit, which is why today’s action is necessary.”
House oversight committee ranking Democratic member Rep. Elijah Cummings attacked GOP leaders in the House for following up on the bipartisan contempt votes.
“It seems clear that House Republican leaders do not want to resolve the contempt issue and prefer to generate unnecessary conflict with the Administration as the election nears,” Cummings said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the American public suffers as House Republicans disregard the real work that needs to be done.”