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Press Briefing by Jay Carney, June 21, 2012

Press Briefing by Jay Carney, June 21, 2012

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06/21/2012

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Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney, 6/21/12
White House Press Office [noreply@messages.whitehouse.gov]
Sent:
Thursday, June 21, 2012 4:14 PM
To:
Seher, Jason - Time U.S. <jason_seher@timemagazine.com>
 
THE WHITE HOUSEOffice of the Press Secretary_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________For Immediate Release June 21, 2012 PRESS BRIEFINGBY PRESS SECRETARY JAY CARNEY James S. Brady Press Briefing Room 12:28 P.M. EDT MR. CARNEY: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the White House.Before I take your questions I just wanted to note that today the Department of Health and Human Servicesannounced that 12.8 million Americans will benefit from $1.1 billion in rebates from insurance companies. Theserebates will be delivered by August 1st. The rebates were made possible by the Affordable Care Act, which generallyrequires insurance companies to spend at least 80 percent of consumers' premium dollars on health care, notadvertising, bonuses, or overhead. If insurance companies do not meet that standard, they must provide rebates totheir consumers.The rebates are just another example of how the Affordable Care Act is giving consumers a better value for theirhealth care dollar and making our health care system stronger. I'm sure there will be a lot of questions about that, and perhaps on other issues.Ben Feller. Q Thanks, Jay. I wanted to ask about Fast and Furious and the move by the House panel to cite the AttorneyGeneral for contempt. Historically, in these standoffs, there's some arrangement reached between the White House andCongress to prevent a potential court fight that could hurt either side. Can you tell us if there's any such effortunderway right now between the White House and Republicans on the Hill? MR. CARNEY: I can tell you that we certainly would like to resolve this if there is a good-faith desire toresolve it on the part of House Republicans.I think it's worth taking a step back. At the beginning of this year, Republicans announced that one of theirchief legislative and strategic priorities was to investigate the administration and damage the Presidentpolitically. We are nine days away from the expiration of federal transportation funding, which guarantees jobs foralmost a million construction workers because Congress has not passed a transportation bill. We are 10 days awayfrom student loan rates doubling, potentially impacting over 7.4 million borrowers. Yet, instead of creating jobs orhelping the middle class, congressional Republicans are focused on this politically motivated, taxpayer-funded,election-year fishing expedition.The problem of gunwalking was a field-driven tactic that dated back to the previous administration, and it wasthis administration's Attorney General who ended it. In fact, the Justice Department has spent the past 14 monthsaccommodating congressional investigators, including producing 7,600 pages of documents and testifying at 11congressional hearings. Yet, Republicans insist on moving forward with an effort that Republicans and objectivelegal experts have noted is purely political. Given the economic challenges facing the country, we believe House Republicans should instead be engaged inefforts to create jobs and grow the economy, rather than political theater. Q So you think it's political theater. But is there something happening behind the scenes? Do you thinkthere is a good-faith effort that can be had here to resolve this? MR. CARNEY: As you know, the Attorney General requested a meeting with the chairman of the committee and, whileI would refer you to the Department of Justice for more details, made an effort to reach a resolution on thismatter. And it is certainly in our -- we believe worth the effort of trying to find a solution. But we have to havea willingness on the other side to work with us to find that solution.It is important for the public to know -- the public, by and large, is not particularly aware of this matter --that every document related to the Fast and Furious operation has long since been provided to congressionalinvestigators. And as I noted before, this is an operation and a tactic that was generated in the field during theprevious administration that, when it was discovered by the Attorney General, when he became aware of it, he ended itin this administration. He referred it to the Inspector General for investigation. It has been recognized by theAttorney General and others in this administration, including the President, as a flawed tactic that needed to beended and investigated, and this administration has done that.What this is about, after all this time and all these documents and all the testimony, is an attempt to scorepolitical points. I think it's a -- speaking of flaws -- a flawed attempt, because it is this approach I think that
Press Brieng by Press Secretary Jay Carney, 6/21/12https://nycowa2.timeinc.com/owa/?ae=Item&t=IPM.Note&id...1 of 106/21/12 4:24 PM
 
explains at least in part why this Congress has the lowest public approval ratings of any in memory, if not history.So that is our view of the matter. Q Last question. Can you clarify or elaborate on what you mean by every document has been provided when thePresident has asserted privilege on some documents? MR. CARNEY: Correct. The issue here is about after-the-fact, internal documents that have to do with theexecutive branch’s ability to operate appropriately and independently in response to congressional investigations andmedia inquiries. Everything that has been -- every piece of documentation that relates to the operation itself -- ifthe interest here is in the operation -- how it came about, its origination, how it was approved, why such a flawedtactic was employed, that has been provided to congressional investigators.The assertion of privilege has to do with the protection of the executive branch’s capacity, enshrined in theConstitution in the separation of powers, to deliberate independently and respond appropriately to congressionalinvestigators’ requests and to media inquiries. I would note also that, as I said, the Attorney General referred this manner, when he learned of it and put astop to it, to the Inspector General. The Inspector General has access to all the documents at issue here, and isinvestigating at the Attorney General’s request. Reuters and then Jake. Q Thanks, Jay. On the resignation of the Commerce Secretary, does the President plan to nominate somebodyelse and try and get them confirmed? MR. CARNEY: Well, first, I would refer you to the President’s statement thanking John Bryson for his service,noting Mr. Bryson’s many decades of service both in the private sector and the public sector. And I would refer youto Secretary Bryson’s letter explaining his resignation. Dr. Blank, Becky Blank, will serve as Acting Commerce Secretary. If we have a personnel announcement to makebeyond that we’ll let you know. But the President has a lot of confidence in Dr. Blank -- she has served in thisposition already and did it quite well -- and has a great deal of confidence in her ability to carry on the importantwork that the Commerce Department does. Q So that’s a no, there’s no plan to nominate someone else? MR. CARNEY: No, I said that if we had a personnel announcement to make we would provide it, and we will, if andwhen we do. Q Okay. Let’s try on another thing. There’s a story in the Times today about the CIA helping allies makesure that weapons don’t get into the wrong hands in the Syrian opposition. I don’t know that I can get you to talkabout intelligence matters, but I wonder if you could talk about how much you know about the opposition and how muchconfidence anyone can have that weapons that go to the Syrian opposition stay out of the hands of potential foes? MR. CARNEY: I appreciate what you noted because I’m not going to discuss intelligence matters. I can say that as a general matter -- and this is something I've noted before -- that part of this period ofhelping the opposition consolidate itself has been one where we have evaluated who makes up the opposition. Andwe've certainly noted that there are some elements of the opposition that are not necessarily friendly to the UnitedStates. They do not make up the bulk of the opposition, and the opposition is not entirely unified, as you know.But again, that would be a separate matter from the issue that you raised at the top of the question. Q So how much confidence do you have that you know enough about the opposition that you can actually directthe flow of weapons in the right direction? MR. CARNEY: Well, again, I'm not commenting on an article so I can't -- I can only say to you that our positionon providing lethal assistance has not changed.What I can tell you is that we provide humanitarian aid to the Syrian people. We provide non-lethal assistanceto the opposition, and we continue to work with the opposition, in concert with our international partners, to helpthem organize themselves, to help them develop greater capacities, all as part of the process of preparing for apolitical transition that the Syrian people absolutely desire and deserve and that will take place. Q And that stops short of giving the opposition weapons? MR. CARNEY: Again, we do not, as a matter of policy, provide lethal aid to the opposition. Jake. Q The documents being blocked through executive privilege, are any of them to or from individuals in theWhite House? Or are they all internal DOJ documents? MR. 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 thenational security staff. That was a long time ago, which speaks to -- it was last fall -- speaks to how prolongedthis 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 thesteward of the executive branch -- not just for his administration but for every administration going forward -- toretain the separation of powers, to protect the capacity of the executive branch to deliberate on these matters, and
Press Brieng by Press Secretary Jay Carney, 6/21/12https://nycowa2.timeinc.com/owa/?ae=Item&t=IPM.Note&id...2 of 106/21/12 4:24 PM
 
to work independently and appropriately in response to these kinds of inquiries. The issue here has been the operation known as Fast and Furious, and that operation is being thoroughlyinvestigated by the Inspector General, who has access to all these documents, including the ones that you’re askingabout. And when it comes to the operation itself, everything has been provided to congressional investigators. Andthat is really the issue, isn’t it? It is, how did this operation come about? And it originated in a field officeduring the previous administration. It was ended under this administration, by this Attorney General. Q The operation began in fall 2009. The operation Fast and Furious began -- MR. CARNEY: The tactic began in the previous administration.Q Okay, but the operation -- you keep saying -- MR. CARNEY: Okay. The tactic began in the previous administration, and it was ended under this one when thisAttorney General discovered it and believed it was a flawed tactic. He then referred it to the Inspector General. Q The documents that the President is asserting executive privilege and not disclosing -- you don’t know oryou’re not going to say whether any of them are to or from anybody in the White House? MR. CARNEY: Again, I’m not going to characterize documents related to this except to say that, on the specificmatter of White House -- anybody in the White House -- and this refers, I think -- and you know if you cover this,and I know some folks here have -- you know because these documents were provided and are out there and were providedback in the fall -- they relate to anybody in the White House knowing about the so-called Fast and Furiousoperation. Any document related to the White House, anybody at the White House knowing about the Fast and Furiousoperation was provided -- at the time was provided back in the fall. Q In early 2011, the Justice Department wrote a letter to Congress in which they said something that was nottrue.MR. CARNEY: Right. Q Right? They said that ATF had nothing to do with guns going over into Mexico. That wasn’t true, and ittook them until December 2011 to take that back. Is there not a legitimate investigative and oversightresponsibility to find out what the Department of Justice knew when they were giving false information to Congress? MR. CARNEY: 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 -- Q -- after the false statement? MR. CARNEY: -- documents that have been provided. The issue -- I would refer you to a leading member ofCongress in the Republican Party who, himself, called this politics. I think most people in this room understandthat this is about politics. It is not about an effort to divine the truth in a serious matter -- which is why thetactic 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 itvery seriously. And he has demonstrated his willingness to try to reach a resolution to this matter withcongressional investigators. To this point, the interest of House Republicans has been to use this politically, asthey previewed for the world in the beginning of this year when they made clear that that was one of their chiefgoals of the year. Q Jay, just one last question. The family of Brian Terry, the slain Border Patrol agent at whose murderscene 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 andPresident Obama’s assertion of executive privilege serves to compound this tragedy. It denies the Terry family andthe American people the truth. That’s a statement from the Terry family lawyer. MR. CARNEY: 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 bythis Attorney General -- why it came about. And that’s why the Attorney General referred it to the InspectorGeneral. That is why we have provided Congress every document that pertains to the operation itself that is at issuehere when you talk about the family that you referred to. And -- Q The Terry family. MR. CARNEY: The Terry family. And that is separate from an attempt by members of Congress, Republican membersof Congress, to try to score political points -- as Senator Grassley referred to his desire for a “political scalp”-- that is separate from trying to find out the truth about what happened in this operation, which thisadministration has been pursuing since the Attorney General discovered it. Let me move around a little bit. Steve, and then Norah. Yes. Q Can you say categorically that there is no -- there’s been no cover-up? MR. CARNEY: Absolutely. Q There’s nothing being covered up by the Justice Department, by the White House, as far as your involvementin -- 
Press Brieng by Press Secretary Jay Carney, 6/21/12https://nycowa2.timeinc.com/owa/?ae=Item&t=IPM.Note&id...3 of 106/21/12 4:24 PM

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