Washington (CNN) – President Obama denied Wednesday that the White House had any role in the recently announced decision to file civil fraud charges against Goldman Sachs, the gilded Wall Street investment banking firm.
In an interview with CNBC, Obama said he spoke about the need for financial regulatory reform during his presidential campaign in 2007 and 2008 and that the White House has been working on financial regulatory reform legislation for more than a year. "And so, we're not Johnny-come-latelies to this thing," Obama said on CNBC.
The Securities and Exchange Commission announced last Friday that it is pursuing civil fraud charges against Goldman Sachs, a powerful investment bank with a long history of ties to the government. The announcement by the Wall Street watchdog came just a day before Obama personally led the charge of Democrats' full frontal assault on Republicans for their objections to some aspects of the current reform bill.
Related: Top Democrat held Wall Street fundraiser
Notwithstanding the coincidental timing, Obama said the SEC made the decision on its own.
"The SEC is an entirely independent agency that we have no day-to-day control over and they never discussed with us anything with respect to the charge that would be brought. The notion that somehow there would be any attempt to interfere in any independent agency is completely false," the president said.
Obama also described the White House's lack of involvement as "categorical," saying, "We found out about it on CNBC," he said.
(Updated after the jump with a statement from the SEC)
The president also discussed campaign contributions he's received from Goldman Sachs employees and the fact that his former White House counsel, Greg Craig, has been retained to represent the Wall Street giant as it defends itself against charges that it defrauded investors who placed bets on complicated financial instruments.
"I got a lot of money from a lot of people," Obama said, "and the vast majority of the money I got was from small donors all across the country. Moreover, anyone who gave me money during the course of my campaign knew that I was on record, again, in 2007, in 2008 pushing very strongly that we needed to reform how Wall Street did business. So nobody should be surprised in the position that I'm taking now because it's one that I was very clear about during the course of the campaign."
Related: Goldman a top Obama donor
Obama described Craig as "one of the top lawyers in the country" who has "a range of clients." And the president rejected the notion that Craig could influence the administration in Goldman's favor.
"We have toughest ethics rules that any president has ever had. And the one thing that [Craig] knows is that he cannot talk to the White House, he cannot lobby the White House. Once he left the White House, he cannot in any way use his former position to have any influence on us."
Obama told CNBC that neither Craig's role nor Goldman's contributions will effect how the White House moves forward on Wall Street reform.
Update, 5:15 p.m.: The head of the SEC released a written statement Wednesday after portions of the president's interview aired. “The SEC is an independent law enforcement agency," SEC Chairwoman Mary Schapiro said. "We do not coordinate our enforcement actions with the White House, Congress or political committees. We do not time our cases around political events or the legislative calendar." Schapiro added, "We will neither bring cases, nor refrain from bringing them, because of the political consequences. We will be governed always and only by the facts and the law.”
Yeah. And he isn't going to raise taxes. And he's gonna close Gitmo. And.............
What a CheeseLog you've elected...........
Go back and play the tapes– Obama was the only canidate that talked about Wall Street reform in the early stages of the campaign.
Beside, tackling these type of issues are the type that do not get you a second term as president – unless, the people are in control of the country instead of the corporations.
Another day, another BIG lie from the liar-in-chief.
Barry needs to put an end to this suit, after all the money Goldmann gave to his Presidential campaign.
RIGHT, and we're supposed to be stupid enough to believe that? What an absolutely condescending batch of egotistical jerks we have in the White House.
Washington and Wall St. always go hand in hand. I believe that we need to set term limits on all politicians and disallow any who serve the public from taking a job with any large corporation from 2-5 years after they have left there post. Furthermore, all lobbist should be prohibited. Make the White House and Congress vote strictly on the ground of what the majority of their district or state agrees with. NOT BIG BUSINESS, etc.
Obama and his staff in the WH are PATHOLOGICAL LIARS!!!! Is Obambi gonna return almost a million dollars donation of Goldman Sachs to his campaign? Obama is a typical DEMOCRAP, lying, cheating, deceitful DEMOCRAP!
Obama found out about it on TV? I didn't know E! focused on financial news.
The "cable TV"? The one the president says no one is listening to!
Talking about talking from both sides of your mouth!
Right! And I am the Easter Bunny.........
You can tell when obama is telling a lie, just watch his lips, when they move it's a dead giveaway
The question that should be asked is why haven't any criminal charges been filed. That's why these companies do the things they do. They know if they get caught, the company (not the people who actually did wrong) will at worst, have to pay a fine. If the people who did these things knew that they could face 10, 15, or 20 years in jail, they might, and I say might, think twice.
I have never seen a President who has had to defend himself against more petty ,ridiculous crap than this President! Instead of wasting time on this, Republican'ts, how about if you actually do ONE of the jobs we, the tax payers, are paying you to do! Namely Financial Regulatory Reform!
Resign please and take doofus Joe with you.
Of course Obama would deny-deny-deny. He surely wouldn't want his #2 contributor to think he had anything all to do with filing those charges, now would he?
After 8 years of Harriet Myers and Alberto Gonzalez tactics, now the GOP is asking questions? Give me a break. Goldman got exactly what it deserves - how much did they make in 1Q – 2010? And how much of a raise did I get, bonus, etc? Give me a break. Where's my bailout Goldman? I need a leg up too.
Don't know who's dumber Biden or Obama, pretty close to a toss up.
Sure..... it was just a big happy coincidence. We believe you Barak. You never lied to us before. Oh wait, what about all those campaign promises..............
Sure He didn't know. If I were President and my SEC did that on such a high profile matter during the time the White House and Congress were considering Regulations I'd be hopping mad. So I don't believe for a minute he didn't know.
Bill Clinton used to say that too, he'd act dumb and say first I heard of it was in the papers.
Hey we knew Bill Clinton, Obama is no Bill Clinton. How will he fare if the Dems lose Congress next Nov. It will be interesting to see.
Nov. 2, 2010 can't come fast enough.
He's lied hundreds of times already . Why stop now ?
President Obama has my full confidence!!!
Nice to know they were one of your big donors.
Way to go big guy keep looking out for the tax payers yea right.
And you ask why no one believes Obama.
Although if that is the truth it speaks volumes as to his leadership!
NO STORY HERE. ONLY REPUBLICANS TRYING TO SPIN A NONE STORY
Republican-GOP have no other strategy for savaging the desperately needed financial reform that will forever block bank bailouts, and hold Wall Street & banks accountable.
So when the Republicans run out of ideas, they accuse President Obama of conspiring with SEC. The McConnell, Boehner, and GOP are lying again.