White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said today there was no cover-up by the White House in the “Fast and Furious” gun-walking investigation, saying President Barack Obama’s decision to invoke executive privilege to block Congressional access to documents was “entirely about principle.”
“It is not something that the president takes lightly; he does it because it is his responsibility as steward of the executive branch to retain the capacity of this administration and every administration going forward to function appropriately and independently from the Congressional branch of government,” Carney said.
Earlier, Carney said, “There is nothing in these documents that pertains to the Fast and Furious operation.”
The House is investigating the aftermath of a Feb. 4, 2011, letter to Senate Judiciary ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) that denied the Department of Justice sanctioned the gun-walking tactic that allowed assault weapons to find their way to suspected Mexican drug cartels. In December 2011, the department rescinded that letter.
Republicans want to know if there was a cover-up of the operation itself and an attempt to mislead Congress, and they want to know whether the White House was involved. They contend that if the White House was not involved, the information should not be subject to executive privilege — an assertion the White House disputes.
“The documents over which privilege is being asserted are internal executive branch documents that have to do with response to Congressional inquiries, response to media inquiries,” Carney said. “Those kind of deliberations have been protected under privilege as a matter of the separation of powers enshrined in the Constitution by administrations of both parties dating back 30 years.”
The DOJ’s inspector general continues to investigate, Carney noted, at the behest of Attorney General Eric Holder. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted to hold Holder in contempt of Congress on Wednesday and the full House is expected to vote on a contempt resolution next week.
Lois Lerner, director of exempt organizations for the IRS, arrives for a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the investigation of the IRS' targeting of political groups. Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment right to not testify and caused a protest from some committee members when she offered an opening statement and engaged in dialogue with members before invoking the right.
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