“In his eagerness to blame the previous administration, Attorney General Holder got his facts wrong. And his tactic didn’t bring us any closer to understanding how a bad policy evolved and continued,” he said. “Bad policy is bad policy, regardless of how many administrations carried it out.”
Mr. Grassley also said the White House’s use of executive privilege raised “monumental questions.”
“How can the president assert executive privilege if there was no White House involvement? How can the president exert executive privilege over documents he’s supposedly never seen? Is something very big being hidden to go to this extreme? The contempt citation is an important procedural mechanism in our system of checks and balances,” he said.
“The questions from Congress go to determining what happened in a disastrous government program for accountability and so that it’s never repeated again,” he said.
Executive privilege appeal
The president asserted executive privilege Wednesday morning, just minutes before the committee began its meeting to consider the contempt citation.
Mr. Holder appealed directly to Mr. Obama for the privilege assertion, saying in an eight-page letter that the compelled producing of documents would “have significant, damaging consequences” and inhibit the department’s deliberative process.
In a separate letter to Mr. Issa, Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole said the privilege applied to documents explaining how the department learned there were problems with the Fast and Furious operation.
“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,” Mr. Cole said.
Mr. Issa called the president’s privilege assertion “untimely,” asking why Mr. Obama was asserting executive privilege more than eight months after the documents originally were subpoenaed.
His press secretary, Brendan Buck, said that 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?” he asked.
Mr. Holder later told reporters that he would not turn over Fast and Furious documents unless Mr. Issa agreed to another meeting, where he said he would explain what is in the materials. He said he wanted an assurance that the transfer of the records would satisfy the committee’s subpoena.