Congressional and administration sources told the Washington publication White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler, Legislative Affairs Director Rob Nabors and other administration officials restated Attorney General Eric Holder's offer to provide a sample of key documents GOP members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee want to review. They also allowed Republican staff members, including representatives of a quick look at a limited number of the documents at issue, Roll Call said.
In return, they want committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., to agree to drop two congressional subpoenas issued months ago.
"This was a good-faith effort to try to reach an accommodation while still protecting the institutional prerogatives of the executive branch, often championed by these same Republicans criticizing us right now," White House spokesman Eric Schultz said. "Unfortunately, Republicans have opted for political theater rather than conduct legitimate congressional oversight."
Roll Call said the Republicans found the offer unacceptable and said they can't agree to terms without first getting to review the documents.
Republicans want to see internal communications regarding the botched "Fast and Furious" gun-tracking operation that allowed weapons to fall into the hands of criminal elements, including drug cartels in Mexico. At least two homicides have been linked to weapons whose trail federal authorities were unable to follow.
Issa Tuesday sent a seven-page letter to President Obama in which he claimed the president's use of executive privilege to block release of the documents is either an obstruction of justice or an indication of his involvement in the ill-fated gun-tracking operation, The Hill reported.
"Either you or your most senior advisers were involved in managing Operation Fast and Furious and the fallout from it, including the false Feb. 4, 2011, letter provided by the attorney general to the committee," Issa wrote to the president. "Or, you are asserting presidential power that you know to be unjustified solely for the purpose of further obstructing a congressional investigation."
The Department of Justice sent a letter to U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Feb. 4, 2011, saying the department did everything possible to prevent guns from traveling to Mexico. The Justice Department subsequently withdrew the letter.
Issa said in an interview Sunday with Fox News he has no evidence implicating the White House in a cover-up.
"Our position is consistent with executive-branch legal precedent for the past three decades spanning administrations of both parties, and dating back to President Reagan's Department of Justice," Schultz said in an earlier statement. "The courts have routinely considered deliberative process privilege claims and affirmed the right of the executive branch to invoke the privilege even when White House documents are not involved."
"If Republicans decide not to have this be a purely political issue, we think that this could very easily be resolved," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Atlanta. "But it has not been resolved yet. I think that points to the obvious political nature of this effort by House Republicans."
The House has scheduled a vote for Thursday on holding Holder in contempt of Congress.
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