Rep. Darrell Issa said he was not showing partisanship by opposing President Obama's use of executive privilege on the release of "Fast and Furious" documents, despite not protesting President Bush's use of executive privilege during his term.
"Ultimately, I respect executive privilege if it's top executives speaking or preparing to the president," Issa told me on "This Week" this morning. "But in this case, the president has already said - and the attorney general under oath has said - t hey weren't communicating."
But in June 2008, former Bush Attorney General Michael Mukasey wrote in a letter to President Bush that executive privilege also covered documents within a cabinet agency, not just conversations with the president.
"The doctrine of executive privilege also encompasses executive branch deliberative communications that do not implicate presidential decision-making," Mukasey wrote in the 2008 letter. "As the Supreme Court has explained, the privilege recognizes the valid need for protection of communications between high government officials and those who advise and assist them in the performance of their manifold duties."
But Issa said executive privilege should not extend to what he claimed was the potential cover-up of criminal activities by the Obama administration and Attorney General Eric Holder related to the "Fast and Furious" gun-walking operation.
"Even the president, and certainly all the agencies. cannot hold back information related to covering up criminal activities or talking about them," Issa said. "That's what we're looking for here."
"It's the communication during that 10-month period between an outright lie and lots of other activities that went on, going after whistle-blowers, all kinds of things that went on during that 10 months, and when they finally owned up to the fact that, yes, they did let guns walk," Issa added. "It's very narrow what we're looking for under contempt."
Issa said the House contempt resolution against Holder was not a partisan action, and that he had disagreements with the Bush administration as well.
"I had some problems with the Bush administration. Attorney General Gonzales and I did not have a good relationship," Issa said. "I thought … he ill-served his president. And I said so at the time. There were mistakes made."
"There were things that we don't approve of, that we think were not well thought out, by the way, that the Bush administration thought were not well thought out," Issa added of gun-walking operations that began under the Bush administration. "'Wide Receiver' was an example of a program in which it was so bad that the then-Republican U.S. attorney declined to prosecute."
But Issa said operations such as the "Wide Receiver" gun-walking operation were shut down by the Bush administration, while the "Fast and Furious" operation began during Obama's time in office.
"This is an example where Eric Holder would have you believe it started under Bush and closed up under him," Issa said. "No, it started under Bush, was closed up under Bush, reopened under President Obama, and, in fact, got to be on steroids."
Issa defended not calling former Bush Attorney General Michael Mukasey to testify before his House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, saying information on gun-walking operations under Bush has already been provided by the Obama administration.
"We've had no problem at all with them voluntarily giving us lots of things to - you know, in the way of recrimination of the previous administration," Issa said. "Our subpoenas covered that information. We've said we want it."