TAPPER: The documents being blocked through executive privilege, are any of them to or from individuals in the White House, or are they all internal DOJ documents?
CARNEY: I don’t have a way to characterize the documents in question here. I can tell you that long ago the administration provided documentation about specific questions regarding officials at the White House and the national security staff. That was a long time ago, again — and which speaks to — it was last fall — speaks to how prolonged this political investigation has been ongoing.
The point I made earlier is that this is an assertion based on the absolute need for this president, as the steward of the executive branch — not just for his administration but for every administration going forward — to retain the separation of powers, to protect the capacity of the executive branch, to deliberate on these matters and to work independently and appropriately in response to these kind of inquires.
The issue here has been the operation known as Fast and Furious. And that operation is being thoroughly investigated by the inspector general, who has access to all these documents, including the ones that you’re asking about. And when it comes to the operation itself, everything has been provided to congressional investigators. And that is really the issues, isn’t it? It is, how did this operation come about? It originated in a field office during the previous administration. It was ended under this administration by this attorney general.
TAPPER: It began in fall 2009. The Operation Fast and Furious began –
CARNEY: The tactic began in the previous administration.
TAPPER: OK, but the operation. You keep saying –
CARNEY: The — OK. But this — the tactic began in the previous administration and it was ended under this one when this attorney general discovered it and believed it was a flawed tactic. He then referred it to an inspector general.
TAPPER: The documents that the president is asserting executive privilege in not disclosing — you don’t know or you’re not going to say whether to — any of them are to or from anybody in the White House?
CARNEY: Yeah, I’m not going to characterize documents related to this except to say that on the specific matter of White House — or anybody in the White House, and this refers, I think — and you know, I mean, if you cover this, and I know some folks here have — you know, because these documents were provided and are out there and have been — were provided back in the fall –
TAPPER: Any –
CARNEY: — that relate to anybody in the White House knowing about the so-called Fast and Furious operation.
TAPPER: OK, but I think –
CARNEY: Any document related to the White House — anybody at the White House knowing about the Fast and Furious operation was provided at the time, was provided back in the fall.
TAPPER: In early 2011 the Justice Department wrote a letter to Congress in which they said something that was not true.
TAPPER: Right? They said that ATF had nothing to do with guns going over into Mexico. That wasn’t true. And it took them until December 2011 to take that back. Does — is there not a legitimate investigative and oversight responsibility to find out what the Department of Justice knew when they were giving false information to Congress?
CARNEY: I think they — first of all, I think that matter has been thoroughly discussed in congressional testimony, including nine appearances by the attorney general, including the 7,600 — 7,600 documents that have been provided.
TAPPER: But –
CARNEY: The issue — look, I would refer you to a leading member of Congress in the Republican Party who himself called this politics. I think most people in this room understand that this is about politics. It is not about an effort to divine the truth in a serious matter, which is why the tactic used in this operation was used, how it originated and the consequences of using it.
This administration takes very seriously — the attorney general, as demonstrated by the actions he took, takes it very seriously. And he has demonstrated his willingness to try to reach a resolution to this matter with congressional investigators.
To this point, the interest of House Republicans has been to use this politically, as they previewed for the world in the beginning of this year when they made clear that that was one of their chief goals of the year.
TAPPER: Jay, one last question -
CARNEY: Mmm hmm.
TAPPER: — and that’s the family of Brian Terry, the slain Border Patrol agent, at whose murder scene at least two of these guns were found, they disagree with your characterization about these investigations. They say that the attorney general’s “refusal to fully disclose the documents associated with Fast and Furious and President Obama’s assertion of executive privilege serves to compound this tra — tragedy. It denies the Terry family and the American people the truth.” That’s a statement from the Terry family lawyer.
CARNEY: Well, look, we absolutely agree with the need to find out the truth about why Fast and Furious happened, why the tactic that, again, was employed in the previous administration in different operations and was stopped by this attorney general — why it came about. And that’s why the attorney general referred it to inspector general. That is why we have provided Congress every document that pertains to the operation itself that is at issue here when you talk about the family that you referred to.
TAPPER: The Terry family.
CARNEY: The Terry family. And that is separate from an attempt by members of Congress — Republican members of Congress to try to score political points — as Senator Grassley referred to, his desire for political scalp — that is — that is separate from trying to find out the truth about what happened in this operation, which this administration has been pursuing since the attorney general discovered it.