In invoking executive privilege on Wednesday in a dispute over documents related to the “Fast and Furious” operation, President Obama took a strong stand behind Attorney General Eric Holder, the man Obama tapped as the first ever black attorney general three years ago.
The executive privilege claim, and the administration’s refusal to hand over documents that House Republicans had demanded, virtually guaranteed that the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee would hold Holder in contempt, as it did on Wednesday. The full House of Representatives could hold a contempt vote next week.
But Obama’s formal decision to invoke executive privilege shifts the political attention from Holder to the president. It illustrates Obama himself supports Holder’s decision to withhold the documents from Congress and has lead to Republicans now attacking the president as well as the attorney general.
Obama’s decision suggests he will not accept the resignation of Holder, who has been a lighting rod for conservatives and even some Democrats on a number of issues.
And that’s not a surprise. Allowing Holder to resign now, in the face of GOP attacks, would make Obama look weak. And there is so far no evidence of wrong-doing by Holder in the botched “Fast and Furious” anti-gun trafficking investigation.
Follow Perry Bacon Jr. on Twitter at @perrybaconjr