It only took the State Department a month to acknowledge what the rest of us had gathered weeks ago: there was no random protest outside the Benghazi consulate, unless you consider a group of terrorists armed with heavy artillery a “protest.” According to ABC News, the State Department changed its story now “as part of its investigation,” which tells you just how serious its investigation will be (h/t Allahpundit):
Topic: Darrell Issa
The National Rifle Association (NRA) has leverage with House Democrats running for reelection in conservative districts, and its decision to score the Eric Holder contempt vote (in favor of it) will complicate Minority Whip Steny Hoyer’s attempts to keep Democrats united in opposition (h/t HotAir):
“I think there are some members that will consider the recommendations of the NRA,” Hoyer said to reporters today. “Whether they think those recommendations are founded or not, I don’t know at this point.”
The number of Democratic defections could reach 31, according to House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA), whose committee voted last Wednesday to move the contempt citation to a full House vote.
Issa cites a letter sent from 31 Democrats to the Obama administration last year asking for them to be forthcoming with details of the Fast and Furious gun-walking operation as a template for possible Democratic “yes” votes.
Via the Daily Caller, House Oversight Committee Chair Darrell Issa sent a letter to the White House this morning directly challenging its use of executive privilege to obstruct the Fast and Furious investigation. Issa asserted what others have been saying for days now: the executive order suggests that the White House was either involved in some aspect of the Fast and Furious debacle, or the order was unwarranted.
“[Y]our privilege assertion means one of two things,” Issa wrote to the president in a letter dated June 25. “Either you or your most senior advisors were involved in managing Operation Fast & Furious and the fallout from it, including the false February 4, 2011 letter provided by the attorney general to the committee, or, you are asserting a presidential power that you know to be unjustified solely for the purpose of further obstructing a congressional investigation.”
Issa said Obama’s assertion of executive privilege “raised the question” about the veracity of how the “White House has steadfastly maintained that it has not had any role in advising the department with respect to the congressional investigation.”
House Oversight Committee Chair Darrell Issa clearly wasn’t bluffing when he circulated a draft contempt order against Attorney General Eric Holder early last month. CBS News reports that Issa has scheduled a committee vote on the contempt charges for June 20:
On Monday morning, Issa formally announced the committee vote on contempt, set for Wednesday, June 20. House Speaker John Boehner also released a statement supporting the move, saying “the Justice Department is out of excuses.”
“Congress has given Attorney General Holder more than enough time to fully cooperate with its investigation into ‘Fast and Furious,’ and to help uncover the circumstances regarding the death of Border Agent Brian Terry,” Boehner added. “Either the Justice Department turns over the information requested, or Congress will have no choice but to move forward with holding the attorney general in contempt for obstructing an ongoing investigation.”
There would apparently be bipartisan support for the motion if it managed to get past the Oversight Committee: Issa told BuzzFeed earlier today that he believes 31 Democrats would support the motion in a floor vote, which is notably the same number of Democrats who signed a letter to President Obama last summer urging him to assist the investigation. Only one of the letter’s Democratic signatories, Rep. Jim Cooper, is actually on the Oversight Committee. Still, the motion is expected to pass.
Rep. Darrell Issa’s draft contempt order against Attorney General Eric Holder is the latest attempt to pressure the Department of Justice into complying with the House Oversight Committee’s subpoena requests related to Fast and Furious, and whether it works depends on a political calculation by the administration. What’s would be more damaging: releasing these subpoenaed documents, or risking the media circus of contempt procedures?
In the contempt order argument, which was issued to members of the House Oversight Committee today, Issa says he’s still waiting for Holder to release documents for 12 out of 22 categories in the subpoena schedule:
According to the draft contempt order, the department “has yet to provide a single document for 12 out of the 22 categories contained in the subpoena schedule.”
The draft order pointed to three categories in particular. Those categories concerned: who among the department’s top brass should have known about the “reckless tactics” in Fast and Furious; how department leaders ended up figuring out the program was a bad idea; and how a special task force “failed” to share information that could have supposedly led to key gun-trafficking arrests.
The fight about the Obamacare provision requiring Catholic organizations and hospitals to provide employees with birth control could have been a major boost for Republicans. It was an opportunity to simultaneously attack the unpopular health care law, defend religious freedom, and make the case against Big Government overreach.
But somewhere along the way, the debate about religious freedom started shifting into one about the merits of birth control. It’s a debate social conservatives can’t win, since they already lost it about four decades ago – which is exactly why Democrats are so eager to rehash it.
How did the GOP lose control of the narrative so badly?
Often, the bias of the media is evidenced not in the in-your-face liberalism of MSNBC, but in somewhat more subtle ways. Take as an example Politico’s coverage of a congressional hearing earlier today. (See also Jonathan Neumann’s post.) The headline of the story is, “Carolyn Maloney, Eleanor Holmes Norton walk out of contraception hearing.” And the story begins this way: “Two female Democrats walked out of a House Oversight Committee hearing on the contraceptive coverage rule Thursday morning, accusing Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) of manipulating committee rules to block female witnesses from testifying.”
For one thing, the rule in question isn’t simply about contraception; it also covers sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs. But more important is this: This issue is significant not because it involves, in part, the matter of contraception (which I happen to support), but the more fundamental issue of religious liberty. It has to do with the federal government being the aggressor in the so-called culture wars and inserting itself into the internal life of the church and religious institutions. That’s why Protestants who aren’t troubled by contraception have expressed solidarity with Catholics who do.
As the GOP prepares to read the Constitution on the floor of the House this morning — in a nod to the new Tea Party members of Congress — Seth Lipsky discusses why the reading of the founding document irks the left so much.
Robert Gibbs seems pretty excited to leave the White House for the private sector: “‘The best service I can provide this president is, for the next couple of years, outside this building,’ said Gibbs, who announced Wednesday that he would leave his press secretary job in early February. He will then hit the lucrative speaking circuit and become a paid consultant to the Obama reelection campaign.” And the search for Gibbs’s successor is on. The White House is reportedly looking past in-house candidates, like Joe Biden’s spokesman Bill Burton and Obama deputy press secretary Josh Earnest, and considering outsiders like former DNC spokeswoman Karen Finney.
Lee Smith explains the “condescending moral double standard” that allows Western intellectuals like Roger Cohen to call themselves “liberals” while ignoring, excusing, or praising the murderous actions of the Middle East’s most illiberal regimes: “[L]ike many other Western observers of the Middle East, [Cohen] uses the region as a kind of virtual reality screen on which to project a self-congratulatory vision of a world in which superior beings like himself can naturally expect to live under the sign of law, civility, and morality while lesser beings in other parts of the world are quite naturally ruled by violence.”
David Ignatius is terribly, terribly concerned that the new head of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Republican Darrell Issa, may be the new Joe McCarthy: “It was scary, frankly, to hear Issa describe the executive branch under President Obama as ‘one of the most corrupt administrations.’…When you see the righteous gleam in Issa’s eye, recall other zealous congressional investigators who claimed to be doing the public’s business but ended up pursuing vendettas.”
So how’s that “reset” with Russia going? Turns out the U.S.’s light criticism of Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s six-year prison sentence last week did little to faze the Kremlin. Russian police arrested 130 protesters during a New Year’s Eve demonstration against the Khodorkovsky verdict and the country’s prohibition of free assembly.
Greece and the state of California have two things in common — spiraling debt and an unwillingness to take responsibility for it. According to Victor Davis Hanson, it’s no coincidence that both populations can’t stop railing against “them” — the others who apparently created the financial messes Greece and California now face. Writes Hanson: “Oz is over with and the Greeks are furious at ‘them.’ Furious in the sense that everyone must be blamed except themselves. So they protest and demonstrate that they do not wish to stop borrowing money to sustain a lifestyle that they have not earned—but do not wish to cut ties either with their EU beneficiaries and go it alone as in the 1970s. So they rage against reality.”
Over at the Wall Street Journal, Jamie Kirchick calls out Julian Assange for leaking information that has served only to weaken our democracy-supporting allies, such as Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai: “Which leads us back to WikiLeaks and Mr. Assange, who lacks any appreciation for the subtleties of international statecraft, many of which are not at all devious. If Mr. Assange were genuinely committed to democracy, as he claims, he would reveal the minutes of Mr. Mugabe’s war cabinet, or the private musings of the Chinese Politburo that has sustained the Zimbabwean dictator for over three decades.”
Is Obama now cribbing speech tips from the National Review? Bill Kristol has the scoop on the president’s sudden appreciation for American exceptionalism.
With a new year comes a whole host of brand new state laws you may have already unwittingly broken. If you’re from California, check out Mark Hemingway’s post at the Washington Examiner — he has saved you the time of going through the Golden State’s 725 new laws by highlighting the ones that will probably irk you the most.
The incoming Republican chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Rep. Darrell Issa, told Ed Henry on CNN yesterday that he won’t investigate whether President Obama offered Joe Sestak a position in the administration in exchange for dropping out of the Democratic Senate primary in Pennsylvania last year: “That’s — it was wrong if it was done in the Bush administration. It’s wrong in the Obama administration. But remember, the focus of our committee has always been, and you look at all the work I’ve done over the past four years on the oversight committee; it has been consistently about looking for waste, fraud and abuse. That’s the vast majority of what we do,” Issa told Henry. Issa had previously called the Sestak incident “Obama’s Watergate” and said that the Obama administration may have committed “up to three felonies” by making the deal.
In an interview with CNN, Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA), the incoming chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, was asked about his pre-election comments that President Obama was among the “most corrupt presidents” in modern times. Here’s what he said:
I corrected what I meant to say. … In saying that this is one of the most corrupt administrations, which is what I meant to say there, when you hand out $1 trillion in TARP just before this president came in, most of it unspent, $1 trillion nearly in stimulus that this president asked for, plus this huge expansion in health care and government, it has a corrupting effect. When I look at waste, fraud and abuse in the bureaucracy and in the government, this is like steroids to pump up the muscles of waste.
Criticisms of the president and his policies are certainly warranted. Still, Mr. Issa needs to be careful not to toss around the term “corruption” in a promiscuous manner. Corruption is commonly understood to mean extremely immoral, dishonest, or depraved; susceptible to bribery; crooked, and the like. What Richard Nixon did in Watergate and what Bill Clinton did to cover up his affair with Monica Lewinski was corrupt.
The Obama administration, whatever its errors, has not approached the level of corruption or criminality of either the Nixon or Clinton administration. And citing TARP as key evidence to prove the corruption of the Obama administration is discrediting. (For a good account of the merits of TARP, see this Washington Post editorial.)
If lawmakers hope to increase public confidence in Congress, they need to speak in measured, judicious, and precise ways. They need to resist resorting to incendiary charges. And they can’t let their rhetoric get ahead of the evidence. That was true when George W. Bush was president, and it should be true when Barack Obama is president.
There are plenty of legitimate reasons to go after Mr. Obama and his administration. Charging them with being the most liberal administration in our history, or even as among the more pernicious in our lifetime, is, I think, fair. But charging them with being among the most corrupt isn’t.
We know that the Obama administration has been far from friendly to Israel — but is this sentiment now influencing policy at the IRS?
The Jewish group Z Street, which claims that its request for tax-exempt status was delayed by the IRS because of its support Israel, has been engulfed in a legal battle with the government agency for months. The case heated up last week after the organization introduced a letter that appeared to show an IRS agent giving unusual scrutiny to another Jewish group that had also applied for 501(c)3 status. Among the questions asked by the agent: “Does your organization support the existence of the land of Israel?”
Z Street said that this is further evidence that the IRS has started targeting pro-Israel groups. Ben Smith at Politico has the details of the letter:
A Pennsylvania Jewish group that has claimed the Internal Revenue Service is targeting pro-Israel groups introduced in federal court today a letter from an IRS agent to another, unnamed organization that tax experts said was likely outside the usual or appropriate scope of an IRS inquiry.
“Does your organization support the existence of the land of Israel?” IRS agent Tracy Dornette wrote the organization, according to this week’s court filing, as part of its consideration of the organizations application for tax exempt status. “Describe your organization’s religious belief system toward the land of Israel.”
But are these inquiries simply inappropriate, or are they evidence of an official campaign against Zionist organizations? A couple of tax attorneys consulted by Smith said they found the questions to be out of line:
“The claims go far beyond what should be the IRS’s role,” said Paul Caron a University of Cincinnati law professor and the author of TaxProf Blog.
Ellen Aprill, a law professor at Loyola University in Los Angeles said the second question was “appropriate” in the context of an application seeking a tax exemption on religious grounds.
“The first one is not the way I would want any of my agents to do it,” she said.
Some have wondered why Z Street is waging a public fight against the IRS instead of handling the tax issue privately. But Z Street founder Lori Lowenthal Marcus told me that her main worry here isn’t her own group’s tax-exempt status — it’s whether the government is holding pro-Israel groups to an unfair standard.
“My concern is that people are sort of veering off into tax world instead of Constitutional law,” said Lowenthal Marcus, a former constitutional lawyer, who added that she believes the actions of the IRS could constitute a First Amendment violation.
But apart from Z Street and the unnamed Jewish group mentioned in the letter, other organizations have yet to step up with claims that they were treated unfairly by the IRS.
Lowenthal Marcus said this doesn’t surprise her and noted that taking on the IRS can be an intimidating task. “Who’s going to challenge them?” she asked.
The current evidence is hardly enough to prove that there has been an official change in IRS policy toward pro-Israel groups, but the letter produced by Z Street shows that the case definitely deserves further inquiry. There is precedent for the IRS denying tax-exempt status to groups that clash with the government’s official policy — the Bob Jones University case is the most prominent example. But while the Obama administration has certainly taken an unfriendly stance toward Israel, this position could hardly be characterized as “official” government policy.
Ron Radosh at Pajamas Media also argues that this issue warrants a public investigation and suggests that this might be the task for a Republican-chaired House Oversight Committee: “What must now be publicly investigated — more work, perhaps, for Rep. Darrell Issa, likely the new chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee — is, as Z Street put it, whether or not the IRS is ‘improperly considering the political viewpoint of applicants’ and engaging in ‘clear viewpoint discrimination.’”
This report confirms what conservatives have long argued: Obama is dragging the government into sectors of the economy in which it has little competence:
A report to be released [today] by the Treasury Department’s Special Inspector General for the Toxic Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP) will contend that President Obama’s push for General Motors and Chrysler to close thousands of dealerships across the country as part of their government bailouts “may have substantially contributed to the shuttering of thousands of small businesses and thereby potentially adding tens of thousands of workers to the already lengthy unemployment rolls, all based on a theory and without sufficient consideration of the decisions’ broader economic impacts.”
The SIGTARP report will further contend, according to Rep. Darrell Issa, the ranking minority member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that it is questionable whether the closings were “either necessary for the sake of the companies’ economic survival or prudent for the nation’s economic recovery.”
You are surprised? Obama’s notion that pristinely apolitical technocrats with great resumes can flip all the switches, turn the knobs, and get the economy purring is exploding before our eyes. The government doesn’t create wealth by massive spending, doesn’t do a better job than the private sector in running industries, and has an agenda based not on economics but on politics (e.g., protecting unions, sparing a vulnerable congressman).
More than the specific maladies of ObamaCare (which are many), this is the core problem with Obama’s great legislative “accomplishment”: it assumes that a centralized bureaucracy can do a better job of containing costs and maintaining quality care than the hundreds of millions of citizens making daily decisions with their doctors. With each revelation — for example, that choice in doctors will be severely restricted – the public gets an inkling that the one-size-fits-all federalized health-care system is going to be every bit as expensive and every bit as objectionable as the nationalized health-care systems that have been tried out in other Western democracies.
All of this is a fine argument for government to do less, not more. Much less.
Pete, you sound a helpful warning on the dangers of overreach and the disturbing tendency to summon special prosecutors as a cure-all for bad government. There are a couple of issues that, I think, are helpful to keep in mind as we look at the issue of oversight and, more broadly, of divided government.
It is understandable that the Republicans would welcome the opportunity for congressional oversight. We have had virtually none of it during the last 18 months. Whether it has been on the failings that led up to Fort Hood, the dismissal of the New Black Panther case, the potential conflicts of interest for Justice Department lawyers who previously represented terrorists, or dozens of other issues, congressional Democrats have placed party loyalty above their obligation to act as a check on the executive branch through congressional oversight. Subpoenas are needed when the government refuses to cooperate with Congressional investigators. Some of those demands for information are not legitimate, in which case Congress generally retreats or is rebuffed by the courts. But at other times, it is the last resort when confronting a Nixonesque administration. In short, Congressional oversight can be abused and boomerang on the investigators, but when an administration is as overreaching and nontransparent as this one, robust oversight is generally a good idea.
The other issue to keep in mind is the distinction between political and legal consequences. Not every bad decision or decision undertaken for corrupt motives is illegal, but there is still a need to expose it and subject the participants to the scrutiny of voters. Normally this is a function we’d expect the media to perform. But again, they are doing a fraction of what they should and normally would do — if a Republicans were in power. For example, a congressional investigation on the shady job offers need not be intended to or result in criminal prosecution; the need to expose the ethical standards of this administration is more than enough reason to conduct some hearings and require testimony under oath.
I would suggest that the proper balance in this is ample congressional oversight, but selective (very selective) use of criminal proceedings. The punishment for unwise, ethically repugnant, and incompetent office holders should come from the ballot box. But to do that we first have to figure out what they are up to. In the Obama era, I think we could use plenty more of that.
Politico reports that
Rep. Darrell Issa, the conservative firebrand whose specialty is lobbing corruption allegations at the Obama White House, is making plans to hire dozens of subpoena-wielding investigators if Republicans win the House this fall. … Issa has told Republican leadership that if he becomes chairman, he wants to roughly double his staff from 40 to between 70 and 80. And he is not subtle about what that means for President Barack Obama. At a recent speech to Pennsylvania Republicans here, he boasted about what would happen if the GOP wins 39 seats, and he gets the power to subpoena.
“That will make all the difference in the world,” he told 400 applauding party members during a dinner at the chocolate-themed Hershey Lodge. “I won’t use it to have corporate America live in fear that we’re going to subpoena everything. I will use it to get the very information that today the White House is either shredding or not producing.”
In other words, Issa wants to be to the Obama administration what Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) was to the Clinton administration — a subpoena machine in search of White House scandals.
For the sake of the country I hope that Republicans take over the House in November — and for the sake of the country, I hope that if they do, Representative Issa is very careful with the power he wields.
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