White House chief of staff Jack Lew on Sunday would neither confirm nor deny whether President Barack Obama himself is involved in the Operation Fast and Furious cover-up.
Appearing on CNN’s State of the Union with Candy Crowley, Lew refused to answer when asked if Fast and Furious documents now protected by Obama’s executive order detail consultations with the president himself.
“There has to be the ability for a president to get confidential advice,” Lew told Crowley. “There has to be an ability for Congress to use its speech and debate clause.”
Crowley followed up by pushing Lew about the level of the president’s involvement in Fast and Furious.
“Were there things in the documents that involved consultation with the president?” she asked Lew. “Is that why you invoked executive privilege?”
Lew balked and accused Republicans of playing politics.
“I’m not going to speak to the specific documents,” he responded. “There was an unprecedented amount of cooperation and providing insight into all the decisions made up to the point of the correction that Congress was given about the policy itself and about the testimony. What they are looking for now are internal kinds of documents that they know are not appropriate.”
White House spokesman Eric Schultz hasn’t responded to The Daily Caller’s request for an answer to Crowley’s question.
Lew also defended Obama’s use of executive privilege to hide the Fast and Furious documents from Congress by trying to argue that Obama’s administration has been the most transparent in history.
“This administration has been the most transparent ever,” Lew said, while attacking House oversight committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa’s investigation into the scandal.
“This is not about the facts; the facts are out there,” Lew said. “This is about a committee that is on a path toward turning a review of policy into a political witch hunt.”
Attorney General Eric Holder was found in both criminal and civil contempt of Congress on a bipartisan basis on Thursday for his failure to turn over documents related to the scandal. Holder was subpoenaed last October and ordered to cough up the documents, but has refused to do so.
There are specific documents Holder is withholding, some of which, according to Issa and Sen. Chuck Grassley, date from before a false letter was sent to Congress by the Justice Department. In that false Feb. 4, 2011, letter, a Justice Department official denied the existence of Fast and Furious gunwalking – a program in which federal agents allow guns to be smuggled into the hands of criminals instead of interdicting them.
Holder’s Department of Justice withdrew that letter from Congress in December 2011 because it was false.
Lew claims, though, contrary to Issa and Grassley, that “[e]very document related to the decisions up to that point has been shared.”
Many of the documents Holder is withholding were produced after that false letter was sent.
Also, Holder admitted during a recent House Judiciary Committee hearing that Obama’s top re-election campaign strategist, David Axelrod, was involved in Congressional and public relations responses from the Department of Justice on Fast and Furious. Axelrod has denied that, and Virginia Republican Rep. Randy Forbes – who gleaned the Axelrod admission from Holder during the hearing – said one of the two has to be lying in this case, and he thinks Holder told the truth about Axelrod’s involvement.