The battle between the Obama administration and the House Oversight and Government over the Fast and Furious operation just ratcheted up another notch. There's word that the White House is exerting executive privilege over documents that the committee's Republican majority has subpoenaed.
That news, from NPR's Carrie Johnson and others on the story, broke just minutes before a committee hearing at which lawmakers are expected to vote on whether to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for failing to turn over those documents. That hearing is to be webcast here.
Reuters is reporting that a committee aide says the panel will go forward with the majority plan to cite Holder for contempt.
As Carrie reported for us in February:
"Fast and Furious broke into public view after the December 2010 death of a U.S. Border Patrol agent. Two guns connected to the botched gun-trafficking operation were found near the body of Brian Terry, igniting two congressional probes and an ongoing investigation by the Justice Department's inspector general."
Holder appeared before the panel on June 7 where he faced a grilling from Chairman Darrel Issa, R-Calif. and other Republican lawmakers. Issa asked Holder if his department knew of the tactics used in the flawed gunrunning operation, and Republicans accused him of not coming clean and not complying with subpoenas.
Update at 3:25 p.m. ET: The committee is now going through some proposed amendments to the contempt citation.
Update at 2:20 p.m. ET: Obviously, there hasn't been a vote before 2 p.m. ET. We'll keep an eye out and report back when it happens.
Update at 1:25 p.m. ET. Vote Before 2 p.m. ET?
Issa just announced a recess, and said the committee will reconvene 10 minutes after the last House vote of the day, which he said would come at 1:30 p.m. ET. So, that would imply a committee vote on the contempt citation sometime after 1:40 p.m. ET.
Update at 1:10 p.m. ET. Still Debating:
The committee has not yet voted on the contempt citation. Members are still arguing along partisan lines, for (Republicans) and against (Democrats) citing Holder for contempt.
Update at 12:15 p.m. ET. On Contempt:
The Associated Press writes that if the committee does vote to hold Holder in contempt, "the contempt citation would then go to the full House. Eventually, there could be a federal case against Holder, but past examples suggest the matter won't get that far."
The lawmakers are still talking. They have not yet voted.
Update at 11:40 a.m. ET. Still Making Opening Statements:
Committee members are still giving their opening statements. So far they've been along part lines — Republicans saying that the Obama administration has been resisting efforts to get information about Fast and Furious; Democrats saying the administration has more than fully cooperated.
Update at 10:30 a.m. ET. Hearing Opens, Letters Released:
At the start of the hearing, Issa said the committee did not set out to hold Holder in contempt, but rather to "get the information the committee needs to complete its work." Of the exertion of executive privilege, he said it was "not spoken of last night" when committee staffers and Justice Department officials were negotiating.
He called it "an untimely assertion by the Justice Department."
Carrie forwarded us the two letters written by Justice about the assertion of executive privilege. Click on the titles to pop up larger versions: