WASHINGTON - The Obama administration on Wednesday asserted executive privilege, refusing to provide documents to a committee of the Republican-controlled US House of Representatives about a failed gun-running investigation.

The White House move came in response to a planned vote by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for withholding the documents. The panel's chairman, Republican Darrell Issa, vowed to press on with the contempt charge.

"I write now to inform you that the president has asserted executive privilege over relevant ... documents," Deputy Attorney General James Cole wrote to the committee.

Executive privilege allows the White House to argue that some private communications between the president and members of his administration cannot be divulged to Congress.

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