The Department of Justice filed court papers on Monday in an attempt to have the House Oversight Committee lawsuit dismissed. The lawsuit would force Attorney General Eric Holder to finally release documents related to the Fast and Furious gun-tracking operation. Within the legal brief, it is alleged that federal courts lack the authority to intervene, once the executive branch has wielded executive privilege in response to a congressional branch subpoena--as President Obama did in this case.
The motion also states that the dispute should be resolved by the two branches in question rather than in the courts: “Disputes of this sort have arisen regularly since the founding [of the country]. For just as long, these disputes have been resolved between the political branches through a constitutionally grounded system of negotiation, accommodation and self-help.”
To refresh the reader's memory, a brief history:
- The House lawsuit was filed in mid-August by Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA)
- The lawsuit was a part of Issa's probe into a bungled ATF operation, which had the intent of tracking gun sales to straw purchasers for Mexican drug gangs.
- Two of the guns were subsequently found at the murder scene of a Border Patrol agent in Arizona.
- GOP lawmakers launched a querry into determining when administration officials first became aware of the operation’s controversial “gun walking” tactics.
- In 2011, the DOJ sent a letter to Congress, maintaining that at all times it makes every attempt to stop weapons from illegally crossing over the border into Mexico.
- That letter was rescinded approximately 10 months later.
- Issa’s lawsuit and contempt resolution against Holder are focused on obtaining internal DOJ documents related to the DOJ’s decision to rescind that letter--and whether the agency intentionally lied to Congress and then tried to cover it up.
- The DOJ did submit more than 8,000 pages of documents in response to other requests from Issa, but Obama asserted executive privilege over the subset pertaining to Issa’s subpoena for the internal exchanges.
- In June, the Republican House overwhelmingly passed resolutions holding Holder in contempt of Congress for failure to comply with the latest subpoena.
- Issa then filed a lawsuit in an attempt to force Holder to relinquish the documents, because the DOJ said it would not prosecute the attorney general over the contempt charge.
Though several DOJ officials were cited by the Inspector General as being complicit in Fast and Furious, the I.G. determined that Holder had no knowledge of the scheme.
President Obama referred to the I.G.'s report as an "independent" investigation and one that should silence the critics.
It did not, however, silence Univision talk show co-host, Maria Elena Salinas. Via a translator, she asked Obama if Holder should be fired. Coming as a surprise to no one, the president said no.
Salinas went on to say: “Let’s have an independent investigation, because at the end of the day, this is the Justice Department investigating its boss and is saying they say is not at fault? Why don’t we have, very briefly, an independent investigation that is not done by the Justice Department?”
Obama answered: “Well, understand that, not only have we had multiple hearings in Congress, but the inspector general is put in place specifically to be independent from the attorney general. This attorney general’s [sic] report was not a whitewash in any way. I mean, it was tough on the Justice Department, and it indicated that, potentially, more supervision was needed, people should have known in some cases, even if they didn’t actually know. So, it was, I think, independent, honest, it was a clear assessment of what had gone wrong in that situation.”
Obama thinks it was an independent, honest and clear assessment.