Releasing $1.5 in Aid to Egypt Against the Wishes of Sen. Leahy - Today's Q's for O's WH - 4/5/2012

TAPPER: On the subject of Egypt, following up on Jessica, Senator Leahy lobbied aggressively for the administration to not release the $1.5 billion in funds to the Egyptian government because of the behavior of the Egyptian government, including locking up democracy activists who were American. Why is Senator Leahy wrong ? Why was the money released all at once and not in tranches and not in a joint account that could be controlled by the Americans as well?

CARNEY: Well, I don't have an answer to you for - on the specific mechanisms by which funds like this were released or might be released. What I would say to you is that we believe it is in the interest of the United States to engage with all parties in Egypt and to engage - to continue to engage with Egypt, because Egypt has been an important ally of the United States and an important - has played a significant role in the region.

And we believe it is in our interest to engage with Egypt, in part in an effort to encourage Egypt to maintain its commitment to its international obligations and to maintain its - to maintain a positive role in the region.

TAPPER: Senator Leahy would argue that he agrees with everything you've said, just now in terms of engaging with Egypt that the money should be released in stages to encourage Egypt to proceed along the path of democracy amidst signs that they may not be proceeding along those lines.

CARNEY: Well -

TAPPER: Why was what he wanted -


TAPPER: - Secretary Clinton signed a waiver.


TAPPER: I assume this was not just her decision in a vacuum, that it came from the administration writ large.

CARNEY: Well, she's a pretty high-ranking official. But the…so I would - for details on the decision about how to proceed and - you know, State Department might be the best place for those details. The overall assessment -

TAPPER: My information is that the decision was not made without -

CARNEY: No, I'm sure -

TAPPER: - high level consultations with the White House.

CARNEY: I don't doubt that at all, Jake. My point is that, again, as you pointed out, we share the same goals. And I don't think we're - there is a great deal of distance between our position and Senator Leahy's. The conclusion was reached that the approach that we're taking was the best way to -

TAPPER: Yeah, but why?

CARNEY: Because we believe that that kind of - the kind of engagement that we are - that we are participating in with Egypt and with its post-revolution leadership and with the emerging political actors on the scene is the right way to -

TAPPER: But that's not -

CARNEY: - to enhance our bilateral relationship and to -

TAPPER: That's not an answer.

CARNEY: Well, the answer is, because we think it's the best way to go.

TAPPER: Because doing it Leahy's way would -

CARNEY: Again, I -

TAPPER: - be alienating to members of the Egyptian government?

CARNEY: Well, you can - you can make a variety of assessments speculating about how things might have turned - you know, might turn out if you took a different approach. The overall goal is the same. The mechanism by which you get there - you know - you know, there are a variety of ways you can get there and the mechanisms to provide these funds. The approach we are - we are taking is the one we believe will yield - has - yields the greatest potential for positive results.

TAPPER: Because of a risk of alienating the Egyptian government?

CARNEY: Well, again, you can - you - that's - you can make an assessment. Our -

TAPPER: I just want an answer.

CARNEY: Well, I think I'm giving you an answer. We think this is the best approach.

TAPPER: You say you're doing it "Because we think it's right. "

CARNEY: Mmm hmm.

TAPPER: I'm trying to know why you think it's right. What is the - what is -

CARNEY: Because we - as I said before, we're engaged with Egypt's new actors to try to work with them as they - you know, during this historic transformation post-revolution - and encourage them both to pursue democracy in its fullest sense as well as pursue the kind of - and maintain the kind of international obligations that they've maintained in the past, and that - and in - with those as our goals, we are - the course we're taking is the one we think has the best chance of succeeding.

-Jake Tapper