U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson was openly irritated both with Attorney General Eric Holder and with the U.S. House of Representatives over whether executive privilege allows Holder to withhold documents on Operation Fast and Furious. But she also signaled she would rule against Holder in part, making it likely that Congress—and the public—could learn the truth about a gun-running scandal that ended with a murdered federal agent.
Berman began today’s hearing in Washington, D.C.’s federal district court with an opening statement about this case “concerning the suspected illegal flow of firearms from the United States to Mexican drug cartels.” She said that the “risks and flaws” of the Obama administration’s program were “tragically realized” when U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was murdered with a firearm that the administration let flow to the cartels as part of this program.
But she emphasized that the May 15 hearing was not about those issues, and instead narrowly focused on whether President Barack Obama could assert executive privilege to protect Holder’s refusal to hand over certain documents to Congress. Those documents concerned why Holder misinformed Congress on Feb. 4, 2011, claiming that the Department of Justice (DOJ) never allowed firearms to make it into Mexico.
On Oct. 11, 2011, Congress subpoenaed all the relevant documents that would explain why Congress was misinformed, including whether the misinformation was deliberate deception.
On June 20, 2012, DOJ informed Congress that Obama asserted executive privilege over those documents, saying they would reveal the deliberative process at DOJ and threaten the constitutional balance of power. Therefore Holder would not provide them. Holder became the first sitting attorney general in American history to be held in contempt of Congress.
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