Q Mr. President, you told me during an interview that you — Eric Holder or you did not authorize the Fast and Furious operation that allowed 2,000 weapons from the United States to Mexico, and they were in drug-trafficking hands. I think that up to 100 Mexicans might have died, and also American agent, Brian Terry. There’s a report that 14 agents were responsible for the operation. But shouldn’t Attorney General Eric Holder — he should have known about that. And if he didn’t, should you fire him?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, I think it’s important for us to understand that the Fast and Furious program was a field-initiated program begun under the previous administration. When Eric Holder found out about it, he discontinued it. We assigned an inspector general to do a thorough report that was just issued, confirming that, in fact, Eric Holder did not know about this, that he took prompt action and the people who did initiate this were held accountable.
But what I think is most important is recognizing that we’ve got a challenge in terms of weapons flowing south. And the strategy that was pursued, obviously, out of Arizona, was completely wrongheaded. Those folks who were responsible have been held accountable. The question now is how do we move forward with a strategy that will actually work.
And we are going to have to work with Mexican law enforcement to accomplish this. But I will tell you that Eric Holder has my complete confidence because he has shown himself to be willing to hold accountable those who took these actions and is passionate about making sure that we’re preventing guns from getting into the wrong hands.
Q But if you have nothing to hide then why are you not releasing papers to this?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, actually, the truth is we’ve released thousands of papers —
Q But not all of them.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we’ve released almost all of them. The ones that we don’t release typically relate to internal communications that were not related to the actual Fast and Furious operation.
And so the challenge that we have is that at any given moment in the federal government, there may be people who do dumb things. And I’ve seen it, I promise. (Laughter.) And ultimately, I’m responsible, and my key managers, including the Attorney General, are responsible, for holding those people accountable, for making sure that they are fired if they do dumb things, and then fixing the system to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. And I’m very confident that you will not see any kind of actions like this in the future.
But what I don’t like to see is these kinds of issues becoming political circuses or ways to score political points in Congress — partly because it becomes a distraction from us doing the business that we need to do for the American people.