A copy of a Congressional Research Service report, prepared earlier this month but withheld from the general public, has been obtained by Gun Rights Examiner and posted this afternoon to the Scribd online document sharing library. Titled “Congressional Investigations of the Department of Justice, 1920-2012: History, Law, and Practice,” the report cites a “rich history of congressional investigations from the failed St. Clair expedition in 1792 through Teapot Dome, Watergate, Iran-Contra, Whitewater, and the current ongoing inquiries into Operation Fast and Furious,” which have “established, in law and practice, the nature and contours of congressional prerogatives necessary to maintain the integrity of the legislative role in that constitutional scheme.”
“Absent an executive privilege claim or a statute barring disclosure there appears to be no court precedent imposing a threshold burden on committees to demonstrate a ‘substantial reason to believe wrongdoing occurred’ in order to obtain information,” the report summary advises. “Instead, an inquiring committee need only show that the information sought is within the broad subject matter of its authorized jurisdiction, is in aid of a legitimate legislative function, and is pertinent to the area of concern.”
Of special pertinence to those interested in the civil contempt of Congress case against Attorney General Eric Holder, to be ruled on by the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, are the arguments revolving around the invocation of executive privilege. But those wishing to understand how current debate has been shaped will want to not just focus on Fast and Furious, but to see the historical and legal oversight and separation of powers precedents.