The war of words over the botched gun-running sting known as "Fast and Furious" escalated on Sunday, overshadowed but not entirely eclipsed by the debate over President Obama’s health care law.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said on CBS’ Face the Nation on Sunday that Republicans plan to file a civil suit in district court over Obama’s assertion of executive privilege sometime in the next few weeks. “It needs to happen,” he said.
He added, “The fact is, is that the only facts that we've received about this entire Fast and Furious operation came from whistle-blowers and others associated with it. We got no information that helped in our investigation from the Justice Department at any point in this investigation."
However, as CNN reports, the Department of Justice has released more than 7,000 pages of documents to the committee concerning the operation.
On Thursday, the same day that the Supreme Court upheld the health care law, the House voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for failing to release documents requested by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and his House Oversight and Government Reform Committee concerning Fast and Furious.
Obama asserted executive privilege over the documents to protect them from the congressional investigation because, the White House has said, releasing them to Congress would undermine the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches.
But the administration and Democrats in Congress have derided the investigation as a whole as a politically-motivated fishing expedition meant more to embarrass the White House than to uncover any information about the gun-running operation.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., went so far as to accuse Republicans of a “conspiracy” to target Holder, because he’s attempting to take down some voter identification laws across the country that Democrats say will unlawfully dampen turnout among some of their most consistent supporters – a claim she sought to clarify on Sunday.
“I don't say it's a conspiracy, I said it's self-evident that this Attorney General -- don't take it from me, you only need to look to some of the statements made by the Republicans, one in particular -- about saying that he should resign from office because he has not enforced their voter-suppression laws in the country. This is an ongoing theme. And it is really unfortunate,” she said on NBC’s Meet the Press.
Pelosi was one of more than 100 Democrats who walked out of the House chamber in protest during Thursday’s contempt vote, which fell largely along party lines, 255-67.
White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew, too, criticized the investigation on Sunday, calling it “a political witch hunt” and accusing Issa and the Oversight Committee of “looking for documents that have nothing to do with what they’re asking questions about.”
“This is not a question of finding facts, this is a question, Congress, at the beginning of this investigation, said they were going to use their investigatory powers in a political way,” he said on CNN’s State of the Union, asserting that Holder had shared all relevant documents and defending the administration as “the most transparent ever.”