A congressional battle of what Attorney General Eric Holder calls “political gamesmanship” over a controversial gun-running sting operation ratcheted up another notch Wednesday when President Barack Obama asserted executive privilege in the dispute.
The decision means the White House is using the powers of the presidency to withhold "Fast and Furious" documents, which have brought Holder to be found in contempt of Congress by a House panel Wednesday.
But who else has invoked executive privilege, a controversial move that has its modern origins in the Nixon Administration during the Watergate era and one that critics maintain is little more than a legal cloak of secrecy? Below are some notable cases:
- In 1990, former President Ronald Reagan invoked executive privilege in refusing to turn over his diaries in a court case related to the Iran-contra affair.
- In 1998, President Bill Clinton made a bid to use executive privilege amid the Monica Lewinsky scandal but was denied by a federal judge. A year later, Clinton successfully claimed executive privilege to free himself from congressional scrutiny related to his decision to grant clemency to 16 convicted Puerto Rican nationalists. He used the powers more than any other modern president.
- President George W. Bush used executive privilege several times to stifle congressional inquiries including those tied to his mass dismissal of federal prosecutors, F.B.I. misuse of mob informants in Boston and even Clinton’s fund-raising tactics.
According to the Hill, and other media reports, the presidential breakdown for executive privilege is as follows:
President Ronald Reagan: 3
President George H.W. Bush: 1
President Bill Clinton: 14
President George W. Bush: 6
President Barack Obama: 1
As a side note, in pardoning Nixon, President Gerald Ford waived his right to executive privilege, willfully subjecting himself to Congress for questions.