Court to decide contempt battle

A fight over President Obama’s use of executive privilege on the documents that led to Attorney General Eric Holder’s contempt charges is increasingly likely to be decided in court.

The way the court decides could drastically limit congressional subpoena powers — or curb the extent to which the president can claim executive privilege.

For the time being, House Republicans and the Department of Justice (DOJ) are about to launch into court-ordered mediations to reach a settlement.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson shot down the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s efforts to avoid mediation, a process Republicans warn is almost certain to be fruitless.

Jackson, who was appointed by President Obama and unanimously confirmed by the Senate in 2011, gave the department and the committee until April 24 to reach an agreement. If they fail, the trial will begin, leaving their fate in Jackson’s hands.

The Oversight panel, led by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), argued that mediation with a separate federal judge would be futile because of the distance between the two sides.

“He is not motivated to compromise in a manner that will result in the delivery of useful documents to the committee in the foreseeable future [and] … settlement simply is not possible — at least not at this time,” the committee wrote about Holder in the latest joint status report. “Further efforts along these lines would be a waste of everyone’s time.”

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