Updated 4:01 pm ET
President Obama asserted executive privilege over documents related to the Fast and Furious gun running operation, preventing their release to the House Oversight Committee.
Nevertheless, the panel, led by Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), continued with its procedure to cite Attorney General Eric Holder for contempt for failing to turn them over.
The presidential determination was formally in response to a request by Holder.
Releasing the documents “would inhibit candor of such Executive Branch deliberations in the future and significantly impair the Executive Branch’s ability to respond independently and effectively to congressional oversight,” Holder wrote.
Republicans and Democrats began manning battle stations. Republicans charged “cover up” and summoned the ghost of Watergate.
“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,” said Speaker Boehner’s spokesman, Michael Steel. “The Administration has always insisted that wasn’t the case. Were they lying, or are they now bending the law to hide the truth?”
Democrats sought to portray the GOP as engaging in an election year politics that distracts from substantive issues.
White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said that “given the economic challenges facing the country, we believe that House Republicans should work with the rest of Congress and the President to create more jobs, not more political theater.”