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House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chair Darrell Issa said on Sunday that President Obama's use of executive privilege in relation to the committee's investigation of the botched Fast and Furious gunwalking operation is “overbroad," adding that the refusal to release some of the documents requested by the committee is “clearly a cover-up.”
Speaking on ABC's "This Week," Issa, a Republican, said that “there cannot be executive privilege over criminal cover-up or cover-up of crime," adding, "lying to Congress is a crime. We have every right to see documents to say, ‘did you know, when did you know, what did you know,’ including even the president.”
Issa will send a letter to the president over the next couple of days disputing the executive privilege claim, he said. Obama made the last-minute claim for the first time on Wednesday as the Oversight Committee prepared to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for failing to comply with a subpoena. The committee pressed ahead with the contempt vote anyway, which passed along party lines, 23-17. Republicans are planning contempt vote for the full House next week.
As Bloomberg explains, executive privilege allows the executive branch to shield some internal documents from the legislative branch if releasing them would harm operations. The oversight committee wants to see internal Justice Department documents related to a February 2011 letter to Congress that Holder later said contained incorrect information.
Issa and Holder have been in a standoff over which documents the administration will give to the panel for their investigation. The Justice Department has repeatedly stressed that they've been responsive to Issa's requests for documents related to the operation, withholding only those documents pertaining to ongoing criminal investigations.