President Barack Obama on Friday finally turned over to lawmakers thousands of documents relating to the Fast and Furious scandal after using his executive privilege to block Congress from gaining access to those records, Politico reports.
The Obama administration’s obstruction of access to the documents requested by then-House Oversight Chairman [crscore]Darrell Issa[/crscore], led to largely House GOP members voting to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt in 2012.
U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson essentially refused to allow Obama’s executive privilege claim back in January, ruling that public disclosures of the DOJ investigation by its Justice Department inspector general report contradicted the administration’s effort to continue to block the documents’ release.
The records being withheld by the administration gave detailed information about the Justice Department’s and White House’s reaction to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives investigation — known as Fast and Furious – which permitted around 2000 firearms to go directly to Mexican drug cartels.
Fast and Furious guns sold by dealers or informants surfaced at a number of violent crime scenes in Mexico and the United States. Two guns were discovered at the scene of the murder of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry in Arizona.
The administration had a deadline of midnight Friday to appeal Judge Berman’s ruling to file an appeal but decided to let it pass and turn over the records to the House Oversight Committee.
“The Department of Justice is pleased that the district court… continued to recognize that the deliberative process component of the executive privilege exists and was a valid basis for the Department to withhold certain documents when requested by the House in 2011. Although the Department disagrees with the district court’s conclusion that the privilege was overcome in this particular case by disclosures and statements made in other contexts, the Department has decided not to appeal the court’s judgment and has provided a production of documents to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform,” Justice Department spokesman Patrick Rodenbush said in a statement to Politico.
House Oversight Chairman [crscore]Jason Chaffetz[/crscore] responded to the document release saying:
“As we’ve long asserted, the Committee requires and is entitled to these documents,” Chaffetz said in a statement. “They are critical to the Committee’s efforts to complete meaningful oversight. The Committee has a duty to understand and shine light on what was happening inside DOJ during the time of this irresponsible operation. Yet DOJ has obstructed our investigative work for years.”