Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is increasingly focused on the month of July as the time to exercise the so-called “nuclear option” and revisit filibuster reform, and he has privately told top advisers that he’s all but certain to take action if the Senate GOP blocks three upcoming key nominations, a senior Senate Democratic aide familiar with his thinking tells me. Reid has privately consulted with President Obama on the need to revisit filibuster reform, and the President has told the Majority Leader that he will support the exercising of the nuclear option if Reid opts for it, the aide says, adding that senior Democrats expect the President to publicly push for it as well. “If Senator Reid decides to do something on nominations, the president has said he’ll be there to support him,” the aide says. Reid is eyeing a change to the rules that would do away with the 60-vote threshold on all judicial and executive branch nominations, the aide says, on the theory that this is a good way to immediately break an important logjam in Washington — without changing the rules when it comes to legislation.
The Bush-era "nuclear" Senate stand-off was defused by the 'Gang of 14,' which remains intact today -- on judicial nominations, at least. Republicans have only mounted filibusters against a tiny handful of the president's most radical judge selections. Democrats are also looking to wipe out filibusters against executive appointments, as the GOP has stifled a number of extreme nominees Obama has put forward to groups like the NRLB. The White House sought to circumvent Congress on this score by making a series of "recess" appointments while Congress was...not in recess. In doing so, they undercut a practice Democrats pioneered to thwart would-be Bush recess appointments. Several federal courts have since dealt legal blows to these non-recess "recess" gambit,s which may explain Reid's new-found sense of urgency. I reached out to Mitch McConnell's office for comment, but they declined to wade into this until they get a better handle on whether they're dealing with a real threat or more bluster from Reid. One thing is very clear, based on multiple discussions with senior Republican Senate aides: Given how poisonous the political climate already is, a move by Democrats to change the Senate rules would push the chamber into full partisan meltdown.
Actually, we know who was primarily responsible for scrubbing the talking points (the State Department) and why (to mitigate political embarrassment for their lethal failures). And assigning responsibility for misleading the public isn't "irrelevant," Dan. While we're at it, no, Rice's rendition of events wasn't based on the "best information" the intelligence community produced. Their best assessment included a clear link to terrorist groups, and entailed previous security warnings, both of which disappeared from the final draft. The head of America's top intelligence agency called the end result "useless." Passing the buck to Congress is pathetic, too. Yes, we should do what we must to protect our people in the future, but that doesn't address what led to four American deaths in Libya. The lack of sufficient security at our compound in Benghazi had nothing to do with Congress or funding. It had everything to do with a series of denied and ignored requests from State higher-ups, the rationale for which remains murky (and for which no one has been held accountable). Fox News' Chris Wallace asked a question I've been wondering about for some time. Where was the Commander-in-Chief as the terrorist attack unfolded? Surprise -- Pfeiffer thinks the answer to that inquiry is "largely irrelevant," too:
After the eight-hour raid began, Obama had one single contact with the Secretary of State that day, and zero with the Defense Secretary or the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. So where was he and what was he doing? All Pfeiffer can offer is that his boss "was kept up to date" by someone. Why the president was not actively engaged during the crisis is totally inexplicable. It's the president's job to make the tough calls during emergencies; instead, Obama seemingly told staffers to keep him posted as he focused on something else. What that might have been is anyone's guess at this stage. Still. Eight months later. Finally, ABC News' George Stephanopolous asked Pfeiffer if the president views the IRS' targeting scheme as an illegal activity. The acting IRS commissioner testified that his agency's actions were "absolutely not" illegal on Friday (before changing his tune and saying that he wasn't sure). What does our law professor president have to say on the matter. Get ready for the most comical use of the "I-word" yet:
"The law is irrelevant." Perfect. (Pfeiffer has hilariously "clarified" that of course the law matters on Twitter). I'll leave you with this quote from a piece in yesterday's Washington Post, which described the shock of IRS employees that they're being accused of partisanship (which Carol also mentioned yesterday):
We’re not political,’’ said one determinations staffer in khakis as he left work late Tuesday afternoon. “We people on the local level are doing what we are supposed to do. .?.?. That’s why there are so many people here who are flustered. Everything comes from the top. We don’t have any authority to make those decisions without someone signing off on them. There has to be a directive.”
Phil Kerpen notes that this rather interesting comment was buried in...the Post's Style Section.
The Treasury Department’s inspector general told senior Treasury officials in June 2012 he was auditing the Internal Revenue Service’s screening of politically active organizations seeking tax exemptions, disclosing for the first time on Friday that Obama administration officials were aware of the matter during the presidential campaign year. At the first Congressional hearing into the I.R.S. scandal, J. Russell George, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration, told members of the House Ways and Means Committee that he informed the Treasury’s general counsel of his audit on June 4, and Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin “shortly thereafter.” It remained unclear how much the disclosure would affect the broader debate over the I.R.S.'s problems. Complaints from Tea Party groups that the I.R.S. was singling them out became public in 2012, through media accounts.
This sentence from the Times story is precious:
Mr. George told Treasury officials about the allegation as part of a routine briefing about ongoing audits he would be conducting in the coming year, and he did not tell the officials of his conclusions that the targeting had been improper, he said. Still, the inspector general’s testimony will most likely fuel efforts by Congressional Republicans to show that Obama administration officials knew of efforts to single out conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status for additional scrutiny, but did not reveal that knowledge during President Obama’s re-election campaign.
Yes, New York Times, the sworn testimony of the Inspector General and your reporting may "fuel efforts by Congressional Republicans" to, um, point out what happened. For his part, Treasury says Wolin didn't discuss the revelation with anyone outside of his own department. First of all, the IRS is overseen by Treasury, which is run by the executive branch. Targeting conservative was a systemic, well-known practice for years inside the IRS. Even if Wolin is telling the truth, we now know that at least some administration officials at Treasury were made aware of the investigation six months before the election. Are we to believe that Wolin didn't bring this explosive information to his boss, Sec. Tim Geithner? Is there any chance this didn't make its way up the food chain in June of last year, if it hadn't already? NBC News' Lisa Myers raised similar questions about the IRS this morning. She noted that IRS brass failed to disclose this extraordinary information last September in a letter to Congress:
"Imagine, if you can, what would have happened if this fact came out in September 2012 in the middle of the presidential election. The terrain would have looked very different."
We now have confirmation that it wasn't just the IRS that knew about all of this and failed to disclose it in the closing weeks of a bitterly-fought election. (Allahpundit asks some good questions about that here). Treasury was in the loop, too. The "guess who knew?" game keeps creeping closer to the White House door, and the "official" story seems to be changing almost hourly. For instance, we also now know that Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has known about this for months. Acting IRS Commissioner Stephen Miller served up quite a few eye-opening remarks during today's testimony. Among them was the explanation that a huge uptick in applications for tax-free status that coincided with the rise of the Tea Party is what precipitated the "efficiency/triage" targeting program. One small problem: There was no deluge of applicants during that time frame. Oh well, time to dream up another excuse. I'll leave you with this piece from Politico cataloging what we still don't know about the IRS story. So far. Honestly, they barely scratch the surface.
CBS News' Sharyl Attkisson -- last heard from explaining that although her bosses have been supportive of her Benghazi reporting, her network's shows and producers don't seem interested -- has chased down another major scoop. This time, she quotes unnamed White House officials admitting that administration leaders determined they would not deploy a counterterror response team to Benghazi from the get-go:
The Foreign Emergency Support Team known as "FEST" is described as "the US Government's only interagency, on-call, short-notice team poised to respond to terrorist incidents worldwide." It even boasts hostage-negotiating expertise. With U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens reported missing shortly after the Benghazi attacks began, Washington officials were operating under a possible hostage scenario at the outset. Yet deployment of the counterterrorism experts on the FEST was ruled out from the start. That decision became a source of great internal dissent and the cause of puzzlement to some outsiders.
Thursday, an administration official who was part of the Benghazi response told CBS News: "I wish we'd sent it." The official said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's deputy, Patrick Kennedy, quickly dispensed with the idea. A senior State Department official Thursday told CBS News, "Under Secretary Kennedy is not in the decision chain on FEST deployment" but would not directly confirm whether Kennedy or somebody else dismissed the FEST. [FEST leader] leader Mark Thompson says Benghazi was precisely the sort of crisis to which his team is trained to respond. While it was the State Department that's said to have taken FEST off the table, the team is directed by the White House National Security Council.
So someone high up in the administration decided "from the start" that a FEST crew wouldn't be sent to Benghazi, even though the team's leader says his group was designed to handle exactly that sort of emergency. We don't know who made the decision to shut down the FEST option, or why. These questions must be answered. The FEST chain of command resides inside the State Department and the White House. Attkisson reports that much like the Tripoli response team that was ordered to stand down twice, FEST members were shocked when their services weren't required in Benghazi:
As soon as word of the Benghazi attack reached Washington, FEST members "instinctively started packing," said an official involved in the response. "They were told they were not deploying by Patrick Kennedy's front office... In hindsight... I probably would've pushed the button." It's unclear what assistance FEST might have provided on site in the hours and days after the Benghazi attacks. In the end, Obama administration officials argue that its quick deployment would not have saved lives because, while the U.S.-based team might have made it to Tripoli, Libya, before the attacks ended, they most certainly wouldn't have made it to Benghazi in time...Still, nobody knew at the outset how long the crisis was going to last. Said one source, "I don't see a downside to sending FEST...if for no other reason than so no one could ask why we didn't."
The officials spoke to CBS News in a series of interviews and communications under the condition of anonymity so that they could be more frank in their assessments. They do not all agree on the list of mistakes and it's important to note that they universally claim that any errors or missteps did not cost lives and reflect "incompetence rather than malice or cover up." Nonetheless, in the eight months since the attacks, this is the most sweeping and detailed discussion by key players of what might have been done differently. "We're portrayed by Republicans as either being lying or idiots," said one Obama administration official who was part of the Benghazi response. "It's actually closer to us being idiots."
I'll leave you with Charles Krauthammer's typically excellent column on Benghazi. It entails a clear summary of the subject, and some sage advice for Republican investigators.
Stephen Miller, the acting IRS chief who "resigned" this week despite being on his way out the door anyway, appeared before the House Ways and Means Committee this morning to testify about his agency's documented malfeasance. Here are the biggest take-aways so far:
(1) Miller repeatedly objected to the term "targeting" to describe the IRS' practices, which involved...targeting conservative groups for heightened scrutiny. He said the term was "pejorative" and "loaded." Miller later denied that conservative groups were even "treated differently," and faced no "litmus test." Who believes this? Both he and the Inspector General insisted there's no evidence (yet) that the targeting scheme was motivated by political bias -- aside from the entire basis of the scandal and any number of specific cases, I guess. Miller did fleetingly admit that liberal groups were not subjected to similar definitional "triage," which seems to be the preferred term. "Targeting" is so judgmental.
(2) Under intense questioning from several members, Miller said he doesn't know who was responsible for the agency's inappropriate conduct. He wasn't even sure who investigated it within the organization. No names. Over and over again, he said that he didn't know answers to questions. He also claimed to have become aware about certain aspects of the scandal (such as the auditing of conservative donors and the leaking of private information to outside groups) through the news media.
(3) Miller revealed that the manner in which the IRS made the scandal public was coordinated and staged during a Q&A session last Friday. Someone outside the IRS was tipped off to ask the question that prompted the initial revelation. Hugh Hewitt makes a great point:
Focus on Lois Lerner-Celia Roady revelation. Roady tipped, got inside IRS info. How often does IRS tip it's "friends" and for what reasons— Hugh Hewitt (@hughhewitt) May 17, 2013
(4) Incredibly, Miller said that Sarah Hall Ingram -- the woman who was in charge of the division that chiefly responsible for the targeting program, and who now runs the IRS' Obamacare office -- is a "superb public servant." He added that the division she ran provided "horrible customer service here."
(5) On disciplinary action, Miller stated that one employee has been "reassigned." (He and one other IRS official have announced a "resignation" and "retirement").
(6) Democrats on the committee seemed to be working from a similar playbook: Expressing "outrage" over the targeting, then (a) invoking Bush and Citizens United, (b) explaining why this was all a stupid mistake that wasn't partisan or malicious, and (c) complaining about the influence of money in politics. They circled the wagons around the White House and relied on heavy misdirection to change the subject. Benghazi, redux.
(7) Perhaps emboldened by Democrats' stirring defense, Miller actually asked Congress to give the IRS more funding. Really.
(8) Here's a key exchange, in which Paul Ryan clearly lays out the evidence that Miller was not truthful with the committee last time he testified on the subject, before everything blew up. Miller flatly rejected that he'd been anything less than honest, and "stands by" his previous testimony. Damning stuff:
Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, is likely to be tapped as the next National Security Advisor, according to a report in Foreign Policy. The report quotes a pair of sources who said that Rice will inevitably succeed current National Security Advisor Tom Donilon whenever he leaves the post. "It's definitely happening," one source said.
We are in the midst of the worst Washington scandal since Watergate. The reputation of the Obama White House has, among conservatives, gone from sketchy to sinister, and, among liberals, from unsatisfying to dangerous. No one likes what they're seeing. The Justice Department assault on the Associated Press and the ugly politicization of the Internal Revenue Service have left the administration's credibility deeply, probably irretrievably damaged. They don't look jerky now, they look dirty. The patina of high-mindedness the president enjoyed is gone. Something big has shifted. The standing of the administration has changed. As always it comes down to trust. Do you trust the president's answers when he's pressed on an uncomfortable story? Do you trust his people to be sober and fair-minded as they go about their work? Do you trust the IRS and the Justice Department? You do not. The president, as usual, acts as if all of this is totally unconnected to him. He's shocked, it's unacceptable, he'll get to the bottom of it. He read about it in the papers, just like you. But he is not unconnected, he is not a bystander. This is his administration. Those are his executive agencies. He runs the IRS and the Justice Department. A president sets a mood, a tone. He establishes an atmosphere. If he is arrogant, arrogance spreads. If he is to too partisan, too disrespecting of political adversaries, that spreads too.
Reality is sometimes crazier than fiction. My initial reaction? You must be joking (via ABC News):
The Internal Revenue Service official in charge of the tax-exempt organizations at the time when the unit targeted tea party groups now runs the IRS office responsible for the health care legislation. Sarah Hall Ingram served as commissioner of the office responsible for tax-exempt organizations between 2009 and 2012. But Ingram has since left that part of the IRS and is now the director of the IRS’ Affordable Care Act office, the IRS confirmed to ABC News today. Her successor, Joseph Grant, is taking the fall for misdeeds at the scandal-plagued unit between 2010 and 2012. During at least part of that time, Grant served as deputy commissioner of the tax-exempt unit.
If you're waiting for a rimshot, give it up. Smell the reality, friends. And In case you were curious, yes of course Ms. Ingram raked in more than $100,000 in taxpayer-funded bonuses as she oversaw her office's the abusive targeting scheme. Now she's off to bigger and better things; namely, monitoring and enforcing your healthcare arrangements. Conservatives have already started making the IRS-Obamacare nexus clear -- a killer talking point -- but this new information brings the connection to an entirely new level. The woman who is arguably the individual most directly responsible for the operation of the IRS targeting scandal has been promoted to run Obamacare enforcement. Let that sink in. Obamacare's core individual mandate, which the Supreme Court upheld as a tax in 2012, goes into effect next year, and our trustworthy, apolitical pals at the Internal Revenue Service are in charge of policing it. I'm sure being infected by toxic IRS taint will make Obamacare even more popular than it already is.
On a related note, the House just voted (again) to repeal Obamacare in its entirety. Democrats mocked and belittled the effort, wherein every Republican voted in favor of uprooting this unaffordable mess, while all but two House Democrats voted to keep it in place. Look at these obsessed fools, banging their heads against a wall for the 37th time, liberals are chuckling. I doubt they'll be laughing for long. First of all, several of the more narrowly-tailored repeal votes actually succeeded. But here's another key point here: Both Democrat "yea" votes came from House veterans who represent red districts. That means that every other vulnerable Democrat, and every single Democratic freshman, voted to protect every last detail of Obamacare, including IRS enforcement. How's that going to play? (Have fun, NRCC). House Republicans couldn't have timed this symbolic vote any better. Hell, the GOP campaign committees should send flowers to the entire IRS management team. I'm speechless.
UPDATE - By the way, ABC News also confirmed that the "fired" IRS acting commissioner was on his way out anyway. The second head to roll, Joseph Grant, was just promoted eight days ago to the position that he's now vacating. Eight days ago, he was elevated to replace...you guessed it, Sarah Hall Ingram. Kudos all around, guys.
President Obama did not help himself at today's Rose Garden press conference with Turkish Prime Minister Tyyip Erdogan. For the second time in one week, Obama answered a limited number of questions from pre-selected reporters while standing next to a foreign leader. Click over to Katie's post for more on his slippery answer about the White House's knowledge of IRS malfeasance, and his decision not to endorse a special prosecutor for the investigation. The president also addressed the Benghazi and DOJ/AP scandals, offering unsatisfactory answers on both:
Benghazi Scandal - Given the limited opportunities for questions (I believe I counted just two American reporters who were called upon), the president was not asked about any aspect of Benghazi -- including the latest revelations about the scrubbed and politicized talking points. Interestingly, however, the president twice raised the issue unprompted; once during his opening remarks, and later in passing. In his prepared comments, the president said his administration is taking action to ensure that another Benghazi never happens again. He spoke of the need for "improved warning capabilities," full funding for diplomatic security, and better training so our military can respond "lightning quick" to threats. These are worthy ideas, but none of them apply to what happened in Benghazi:
[Warning Capabilities] - The State Department was warned repeatedly about the threats in Benghazi, so warning wasn't the problem. The team on the ground in Libya sent numerous, urgent requests for enhanced security assets, all of which were denied or ignored. The intelligence agencies had also issued warnings about the deteriorating security situation in Benghazi, a fact that was eliminated from administration talking points for overtly political reasons.
[Full Funding] - The State Department and the administration's own "independent" review board both concluded that funding shortfalls played no role in Benghazi. The Washington Post has rated claims to the contrary a "Three Pinocchio" falsehood.
[Military Readiness] - Two Marines held umbrellas for the heads of state in the Rose Garden today. That's two more Marines than were stationed in Benghazi on 9/11. While it's definitely true that no military assets were deployed "lightning quick" on 9/11/12, that outcome doesn't appear to be a training issue. A small force in Tripoli was twice ordered to stand down, and an elite team in Europe never got off the ground either. The attack lasted eight hours.
Later on, Obama worked Benghazi into another answer, noting how dangerous the situation in Benghazi was and is. This was an odd decision on his part because it didn't directly apply to the question he was asked, but it did underscore the security problems on the ground -- for which his administration has yet to account.
DOJ / AP Phone Records Scandal - The president -- much like his Attorney General, in whom he again expressed "full confidence" -- refused to comment on the Justice Department's tactics in the Associated Press case. He gave a lengthy answer about the seriousness of national security leaks, which everyone understands. The issue in this particular case is the broadness of the net cast, the length of time the monitoring occurred, and the total secrecy of the operation. Obama wouldn't say whether he thought the DOJ overreached, which is the strong consensus across virtually the entire field of journalism and First Amendment watchdog groups. The president also failed to mention that in the specific case at issue, the Associated Press had agreed to play ball with the government and delayed publishing their story until the threat passed. Eric Holder has claimed that he doesn't know much of anything about this particular investigation because he recused himself from it at some point (he can't quite recall when that was, and it wasn't done in writing). He did, however, assert that the leak was one of the most serious he'd ever seen in his entire career. The Washington Post raises reasons to doubt Holder's characterization:
For five days, reporters at the Associated Press had been sitting on a big scoop about a foiled al-Qaeda plot at the request of CIA officials. Then, in a hastily scheduled Monday morning meeting, the journalists were asked by agency officials to hold off on publishing the story for just one more day. The CIA officials, who had initially cited national security concerns in an attempt to delay publication, no longer had those worries, according to individuals familiar with the exchange. Instead, the Obama administration was planning to announce the successful counterterrorism operation that Tuesday. AP balked and proceeded to publish that Monday afternoon. Its May 2012 report is now at the center of a controversial and broad seizure of phone records of AP reporters’ home, office and cellphone lines. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said the unauthorized disclosure about an intelligence operation to stop al-Qaeda from detonating explosives aboard a U.S. airliner was among the most serious leaks he could remember, and justified secretly obtaining records from a handful of reporters and editors over a span of two months.
Now, some members of Congress and media advocates are questioning why the administration viewed the leak that led to the May 7 AP story as so grave. The president’s top counterterrorism adviser at the time, John O. Brennan, had appeared on “Good Morning America” the following day to trumpet the successful operation. He said that because of the work of U.S. intelligence, the plot did not pose an active threat to the American public. Holder said this week that the unauthorized disclosure “put the American people at risk.”
First, the AP agreed to hold the story until the CIA concluded that it no longer posed a risk. Then the administration openly crowed about the successful operation. Then the DOJ initiated an unprecedented dragnet to find the AP's source, monitoring dozens of journalists' work and personal phone records to do so -- without even attempting to work with the news organization, which had just been helpful to them. Holder says this story posed a grave risk -- one of the gravest he'd ever seen -- to American security. So why did the CIA tell journalists that any potential threat had passed, and why did the administration reveal the bust publicly? Also, per the WaPo piece, why was the CIA negotiating over "scoop" time windows with the AP, even after they concluded threat was over? Was the AP punished for simply for stepping on the White House's big announcement the next day? That smells like pure politics. The AP's CEO asks more important questions here. The president has "compete confidence" in this man?
AG Holder says he did not inform WH he recused himself in @ap case, did not do so in writing and cannot say when he did so.— Kelly O'Donnell (@KellyO) May 15, 2013
The emails confirm the ABC News report that the so-called "talking points" written by the CIA on the attack underwent extensive revisions – 12 versions – and that substantial changes were made after the State Department expressed concerns. The early versions of the talking points, drafted entirely by the CIA, included references to the al Qaeda affiliate Ansar al-Sharia and to previous CIA warnings about terror threats in Benghazi. State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland expressed concerns about including those references in the talking points.
In one email, previously reported by ABC News, Nuland said that including the CIA warnings "could be used by Members [of Congress] to beat the State Department for not paying attention to Agency warnings so why do we want to feed that? Concerned …" After some changes were made, Nuland was still not satisfied. "These don't resolve all my issues or those of my building leadership," Nuland wrote. A senior administration official said that Deputy CIA Director Mike Morrell agreed with Nuland's concerns and made the changes himself. There is no email record, however, showing that Morrell shared Nuland's concerns.
The emails do show that the erroneous "spontaneous demonstrations" talking point was included in the original, CIA-produced drafts. However, references to terrorist involvement and prior security warnings were erased at the behest of the State Department, based on nakedly political considerations. Note, too, that many of these 100 pages were duplicative, and do not cover the key deliberations of September 12th and 13th -- the days immediately following the attack. Amb. Chris Stevens' second in command personally told Sec. Clinton that the Benghazi raid was an orchestrated terrorist attack as it was unfolding on 9/11. An Assistant Secretary of State affirmed that self-evident truth in an email to a Libyan official the next day (skip to 2:05 in that clip). Four days later, Amb. Susan Rice went on five television shows, downplayed and dismissed the terrorism connection, and said the incident was the "direct result" of an obscure YouTube video. Stephen Hayes, who got this ball rolling a few weeks ago, summarized his analysis of the newly-disclosed email trail:
On first read, #Benghazi emails very bad for Carney, State Dept, Clinton, Jake Sullivan, Victoria Nuland. Not good for WH, CIA. Good- Rhodes— Stephen Hayes (@stephenfhayes) May 15, 2013
That's a whole lot of relevant, accurate intel stricken from the record just to save face for the State Department. Allahpundit makes a trenchant observation that gets to the core of State's political calculus in all of this:
Another State Department deputy, David Adams, complained earlier in the evening (page 40) that that fourth paragraph “will read to members like we had been repeatedly warned.” But they had been repeatedly warned: That was the whole point of the initial Benghazi testimony last year from Eric Nordstrom, culminating in his claim that the “Taliban is on the inside of the building” at State because they wouldn’t listen to repeated requests for more security. On the day he died, Stevens sent a cable to State emphasizing his concerns about “growing problems with security” in Benghazi. O’s critics have chased a thousand different strands of this story, but that remains the most egregious element of it. State’s diplomatic team in Libya begged them for more security and were refused. And after it was over, Nuland and Adams fretted that the public might conclude they hadn’t done enough to protect their troops if the talking points were left as is. Heaven forbid.
Nuland, Adams, and...someone else. Check out this screen grab of one of Nuland's emails airing worries about including truthful information in the talking points. She writes, "I just had a convo with [redacted]...on that basis, I have serious concerns about all the parts highlighted below." Those "parts" were the bits about terrorist activity and the recent history of security problems in Benghazi. Nuland writes that she doesn't want to let Congress "abuse" those facts to make the State Department look bad, even though their negligent behavior warranted negative scrutiny. So who was the redacted person with whom Nuland "had a convo" before ramping up pressure to scrub the talking points of politically problematic details? I've got a guess, but the public has a right to know who was driving Nuland's political games. How ironic that the White House keeps accusing truth-seekers on these questions of "politicizing" the issue.
UPDATE - A follow-up to a related story we've been following: CBS News' Sharyl Attkisson says network executives, including president David Rhodes, have been supportive of her Benghazi reporting. It's CBS News' shows/producers that haven't shown much interest.
It's rigorous work keeping pace with all of these scandals, as House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer discovered earlier this week, but we're doing our best nonetheless. On the IRS targeting issue, we covered a lot of ground yesterday and earlier, but the "fun" never ceases. It will come as a surprise to no one that IRS employees lean heavily Democratic. Their livelihoods depend on the existence of big, complicated government, so of course they'd vote blue. In the 2012 cycle, during which their agency's abusive methods were in place, IRS employees donated to Barack Obama over Mitt Romney by more than a 2-to-1 margin. What did the political contribution break-down look like in Cincinnati -- where the tax exemption office is based? Cough:
The Cincinnati office where the political targeting took place is much more partisan, judging by FEC filings. More than 75 percent of the campaign contributions from that office in the past three elections went to Democrats. In 2012, every donation traceable to employees at that office went to either President Obama or liberal Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio.
One. Hundred. Percent. The office's director is an Obama donor, too. The undue logistical hoops through which conservative groups were forced to leap are being document left and right; this one's especially egregious. Even as the president expresses (feigns?) outrage over the IRS' victimization of groups he's demonized throughout his presidency, and even after the IRS admitted wrongdoing, some liberals are still trying to justify the agency's actions. Some say the Tea Party deserved it because they're racist terrorists; others say their brought it on themselves through their "persecution complex" and attempts to abide by the law, or something. Meanwhile, Fox 19 in Cincinnati explored the significant local angle to this story and mined this juicy quote, which further eviscerates the IRS' "it was basically just two local guys" fable:
These four IRS workers claim "they simply did what their bosses ordered". Keep in mind, as FOX19 reported on Tuesday, the report by the Office of Inspector General states that senior IRS officials knew agents were targeting Tea Party groups as early as 2011.
One more piece of the hierarchy puzzle, via the Wall Street Journal: "The IRS is many things, but 'independent' isn't one of them. It is formally part of the Treasury Department and is headed by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, who is appointed by the President. The Commissioner is accountable to the President reporting through the Treasury Secretary." So much for all that "totally independent" pablum we've been spoon-fed in recent days.
Must Watch: Senator Explains Why He Changed From Being a Democrat to Being a Republican | Katie Pavlich