Constitution Daily

Smart conversation from the National Constitution Center

Reaction fast, furious to Obama executive privilege decision

June 20, 2012 by NCC Staff


President Barack Obama’s decision to invoke executive privilege in the Operation Fast and Furious case sparked outrage among GOP members on Wednesday and support from Democrats.

The claim of executive privilege allows a president to withhold information from Congress and the courts when given a subpoena, until the question at hand is settled by a compromise, a Congressional vote or within the court system.

In rare cases, the Supreme Court will decide the issue.

A House committee led by Rep. Darrell Issa proceeded with a vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for refusing to hand over documents related to the gun-walking scandal.

Holder claims the documents would put on-going criminal investigations at risk.

Holder and GOP lawmakers are locked in a bitter fight over sting operations run by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Under Holder’s term as attorney general, Operation Fast And Furious went tragically wrong, with guns getting into the hands of Mexican drug cartel members.

Here is how the developing story is being covered by five major online news outlets:

If you are older (or a modern history student), the concept of executive privilege was a key component of the Watergate scandal.

The idea of executive privilege dates back to George Washington and received its name from Dwight Eisenhower.

The Constitution doesn’t spell out the right of the president to claim executive privilege, but a series of Supreme Court cases established the precedent.

In 1974, the Supreme Court case of United States v. Nixon was about President Nixon’s claims that the Watergate tapes were a privileged communication. The court ruled against Nixon's claim of executive privilege.

Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush also invoked executive privilege while in office.

President Obama’s executive privilege claim won’t likely stall the battle between Issa and Holder over a full contempt of Congress vote.

But given that the confrontation comes in a presidential election year, the stakes are high.

Recent Constitution Daily Stories

Constitution Daily survey: Rubio still tops, Ayotte and Pawlenty rising Tim Tebow as vice president, 5 other long-shot candidates Survey: 16 predictions on the health care decision

Sign up for our email newsletter