President Obama on Wednesday asserted executive privilege over Fast and Furious documents just as a House panel prepared to push ahead with a contempt vote against Attorney General Eric Holder.

Here’s what the president’s action means:

— Executive privilege allows Obama to withhold from Congress documents revealing internal communications and decision-making of the executive branch of government that he believes should remain confidential.

— A subpoena by Congress cannot override claims of executive privilege. However, the privilege is considered “qualified” and “not absolute,” meaning it can be challenged and overturned in the courts, according to the Congressional Research Service.

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