One thing executive privilege can’t accomplish for Eric Holder is hiding his Department’s wrongdoing. Richard Nixon got that scolding from the Supreme Court in 1974 in a case deliciously named United States v. Nixon.
In that case, the Supreme Court held,
neither the doctrine of separation of powers nor the need for confidentiality of high-level communications, without more, can sustain an absolute, unqualified Presidential privilege of immunity from judicial process under all circumstances.
Executive privilege cannot be used to cover up criminal wrongdoing, such as lying to Congress.Even more important: executive privilege is generally understood as limited to communications between the President and his Cabinet officers and other direct reports in the White House. Essentially, Obama is claiming that Fast & Furious was not a renegade operation deep in the Justice Department. He has essentially admitting that White House staff were involved, or he would have no basis for executive privilege claims. From the June 20, 2012 Christian Science Monitor:
According to an authoritative Congressional Research Service history of executive privilege, at least three important elements must be present for a legally correct assertion of the power. First, the communication the president wishes to withhold must bear on a core power of the presidency, such as the right to grant pardons or conduct law enforcement. Second, the communication must have come from or to the president or a close White House adviser. Third, the communication can’t contain info so unique that investigators can’t figure it out by looking elsewhere.
This is going to get fun, especially watching the same people who were furious with Nixon's use of executive privilege to hide crimes by White House staff (and Nixon) justify why this is completely different. With a little luck, Obama can make the Democrats rue the day that they picked this crooked fool.