'This Is About Principle,' Carney Says -- Prompting Laughter From WH Press Corps

By Susan Jones | June 22, 2012 | 10:19am EDT

(CNSNews.com) - There is no White House cover-up; the Justice Department has given Congress "every page related to the Fast and Furious operation;" and congressional Republicans are focused on a “politically motivated, taxpayer-funded, election-year fishing expedition," White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters on Thursday.

But Carney prompted laughter from the White House reporters when he defended President Obama's decision to invoke executive privilege in response to a congressional subpoena for internal executive branch documents:

"This is about principle," Carney said. It has nothing to do -- (laughter) -- no, no  this has nothing to do -- we have been absolutely clear about the fact that this operation (Fast and Furious) used a tactic that originated in a field office that was flawed, that was wrong, and that had terrible consequences for the Terry family, and should not have been employed. And this Attorney General, when he learned about it, put an end to it and referred it for investigation.

"I think that is -- long before this became an issue for House Republicans to politicize, this was something that the attorney general made sure was being investigated by the (Justice Department’s) inspector general," he added.

Several times Carney noted that Attorney General Eric Holder has referred the matter to the Justice Department's inspector general. "The Inspector General has full access to all documents we are discussing right now -- full access," Carney said. Congress, on the other hand, has received only 7,600 documents relating solely to Operation Fast and Furious.

Carney insisted that invoking executive privilege "has to do with the absolute necessity of retaining the executive branch’s independence enshrined in the Constitution in the separation of powers."

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform committee, says the committee has been refused internal executive branch documents that would help Congress understand who at the Justice Department should have known about the "reckless" gun-running tactics; how the department concluded that Operation Fast and Furious was fundamentally flawed; how the Justice Department dealt with whistleblowers; and the extent to which the Justice Department tried to conceal information from Congress.

“Understanding the post-February 4th period is critical to the Committee’s investigation,” says the contempt resolution the committee passed on Wednesday.

On Feb. 4, 2011 -- almost two months after U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed -- the Justice Department sent a letter to Congress denying whistleblower allegations that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives knowingly allowed guns to "walk" to Mexican drug cartels.

In that Feb. 4 letter, the Justice Department insisted that the ATF always makes "every effort to interdict weapons that have been purchased illegally and prevent their transportation to Mexico." The Justice Department also rejected accusations that two assault rifles found near the scene of Terry's murder were part of ATF's gun-walking scheme.

Nearly ten months later, the Justice Department sent Congress another letter, rescinding its Feb. 4 denials and admitting that Operation Fast and Furious was "fundamentally flawed."

Lawmakers believe internal documents generated after Feb. 4 would indicate whether the executive branch was trying to conceal information.

On Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner said the Obama administration “has stonewalled Congress’s legitimate oversight responsibilities.”

“Listen, the American people deserve the truth, and the administration has an obligation to turn over the relevant documents right now. The decision to invoke executive privilege is an admission that White House officials were involved in decisions that mislead the Congress and have covered up the truth. So, what is the Obama administration hiding in Fast and Furious?”

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