Issa Questions Obama's Executive Privilege Claim

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House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa is challenging President Obama's claim of executive privilege in the congressional probe of Operation Fast and Furious.

The president used that claim last week to bar the panel from viewing documents showing how the Justice Department handled its investigation of the botched 2010 gun-tracking operation.

In a letter to the president, Issa questioned whether he was simply using his power "solely for the purpose of further obstructing a congressional investigation."

White House Spokesman Eric Schultz dismissed the letter, saying it "has as much merit as his absurd contention that Operation Fast and Furious was created in order to promote gun control."

"Our position is consistent with Executive Branch legal precedent for the past three decades spanning administrations of both parties," he said.

He added that courts have routinely "affirmed the right of the Executive Branch to invoke the privilege even when White House documents are not involved."

Meanwhile, some scholars, like Ohio State University law professor Peter Shane, agree that the president has the right to withhold any documents in the Executive Branch.

"Executive privilege is really an umbrella concept that encompasses a variety of privileges," Shane said.

"History's most famous claim of Executive Privilege -- President Richard Nixon's unsuccessful attempt to withhold the Watergate tapes -- was an example of 'presidential privacy privilege,'" he added. "That privilege covers executive communications when the president is involved."

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