"I am astounded that today we are sitting here weighing whether to hold the attorney general of the United States, the highest-ranking law enforcement officer in our country, in contempt of Congress," said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y. "It shouldn't be a political witch hunt against the attorney general of our country and our president in an election year."
Still, Issa and Republicans on the committee believe the as-yet-undisclosed information is critical to understanding how the administration responded to the unfolding scandal surrounding a program that allegedly allowed U.S. weapons to cross the border into Mexico in order to track gun runners. One of the weapons was later found to be used in the shooting death of a U.S. border patrol agent.
Obama administration officials said the assertion of privilege over non-presidential executive branch communications is not unprecedented.
President Bill Clinton used executive privilege 14 times and President George W. Bush invoked it six times, officials said, including in cases that involved documents similar to those sought in the Fast and Furious congressional inquiry.