Now that the public is fully aware of the IRS’s corrupt practices back in 2012 election cycle, more information is coming to light by the minute. We have now become aware that not only did the IRS scrutinize tea party groups more than others, but they also leaked some of that info to liberal groups. “The progressive-leaning investigative journalism group ProPublica says the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) office that targeted and harassed conservative tax-exempt groups during the 2012 election cycle gave the progressive group nine confidential applications of conservative groups whose tax-exempt status was pending.”
Although this is a surprising admission, it is a commendable one from one of our liberal counterparts. The group said:
The same IRS office that deliberately targeted conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status in the run-up to the 2012 election released nine pending confidential applications of conservative groups to ProPublica late last year... In response to a request for the applications for 67 different nonprofits last November, the Cincinnati office of the IRS sent ProPublica applications or documentation for 31 groups. Nine of those applications had not yet been approved—meaning they were not supposed to be made public. (We made sixof those public, after redacting their financial information, deeming that they were newsworthy.)
The group also says that they did not receive any information on pending applications for liberal groups during the cycle. ProPublica is a well-known liberal group, with many donors following the Democratic Party lines.
The House Ways and Means Committee is set to have a formal hearing on the IRS conservative targeting scandal next week. Top officials from that organization will be making an appearance to testify.
UPDATE: I have just viewed a copy of the report the Inspector General is releasing about the IRS. On page 18, it notes that more than half (58%) of the organizations that received letters from the IRS requesting more information sought information that was unnecessary.
In addition, the report says that specialists in the unit (determining whether tax-exempt status should be granted) lacked knowledge of the activities permitted by 501(c)(3)'s and 501(c)(4)'s.
Also, some organizations received a second letter from the IRS requesting additional information -- requiring the group to gather the information in 2-3 weeks, although the IRS had done nothing with the iformation previously sought and given for more than a year.
Other wrongdoing also was perpetrated; for example, the Department sought donor information from 27 organizations that it would be required to make public if the application was approved, even though this same information could not be made public by the IRS when provided by organizations whose applications had already been approved.
Finally, the cover letter from the Inspector General, dated today, states specifically that "The IRS response . . . states that issues discussed in the report have been resolved. We disagree with this statement as well." It goes on to note that "a substantial number of applications have been under review, some for more than three years and through two election cycles, and remain open."
As the IRS scandal grows worse and worse, what's ugliest and most shocking is that it wasn't only conservative groups -- or Jewish groups -- who came in for abuse at the hands of the IRS. In essence, the IRS has been used (or made itself) a tool of retribution against those who displease the Obama administration.
Remember the famous interview conducted by St. Louis television institution Larry Connors conducted with the President last year?
Franklin Graham is revealing that the IRS came after Billy Graham ministries, as well, after they took positions inimical to those in power at The White House.
So was Romney donor Frank VanderSloot.
This is what's known as a pattern and practice of abuse, intended to silence and intimidate anyone who dared challenge the Obama administration.
Now the question becomes: Are we supposed to believe that this was an operation solely of low-level IRS employees?
What else can they say?
Later, NBC's Chuck Todd slammed Obama's doubletalk on a press shield law, which could have prevented the DOJ from secretly monitoring dozens of journalists' work and personal phone records for months. Obama said one thing as a Senator and a candidate, then reversed himself as president. Jay Carney tried to pin this on the Bush administration, natch (video available at the link):
Todd: You keep talking about then Sen .Obama supported a certain piece of legislation that, in fact, as president he killed that piece of legislation in October of 2009 — and made it so that the protections he supported, having judicial review … there was an opportunity to have this bill passed…and he said the White House had problems with it and he killed it.
Carney: First of all, you’re talking about separate pieces of legislation and a legislative history that bears a little more looking into. The president’s position on this is what it was as a senator. But the fact is I cannot then appropriately apply his support for that measure..
Todd: If he supported that piece of legislation, we wouldn’t be having this conversation today because he supported a judicial review that seemed to settle this –
Carney: And what happened to it in 2007?
Todd: I’m asking you what happen in 2009 when he was president of the United States.
Carney's marching orders today were to convey two primary messages: First, that Benghazi is a "circus" and "sideshow" motivated by partisanship. (One wonders what Patricia Smith and loyal Democrat Greg Hicks might have to say about that sneering accusation. Amb. Chris Stevens couldn't be reached for comment). Translation: Benghazi is the bogus "scandal," reporters, so let's clear the decks on that one. Never mind the new evidence of political manipulation, the administration's shifting story, and whistle-blowers' impactful sworn testimony. No, the whole controversy is just "a deliberate attempt to politicize a tragedy," Carney said, scolding those Americans who care about the truth. What a disgusting evasion. By the way, Carney went on to aver that the president is committed to "finding out who did it, finding out why, and taking the steps necessary" to ensure that it doesn't happen again. Doesn't Carney remember his own dismissive formulation that Benghazi "happened a long time ago"? The White House has been patting us on the head by talking about gathering all the facts and holding people accountable for eight months. During that time, there have been no arrests made, and no one has been fired. Can you imagine if eight months had passed after the Boston bombings without a single arrest? That attack was perpetrated by two men who killed three people; Benghazi was perpetrated by dozens of terrorists who killed four people, including our ambassador. The administration's official line on Benghazi ("we're blameless, you're crazy or partisan") is overtly political, callous, and insulting.
Second, as for the "real" scandals at the IRS and DOJ, the president didn't know anything, and it would be "wholly inappropriate" for him to comment further until all the facts are known. The best spin they have at their disposal is to argue that the President of the United States has to turn on the nightly news to find out what's happening the government he runs.
Conservative columnist George Will is now calling out the Obama Administration after the IRS admitted Friday that they targeted conservative groups with the phrases “Tea Party,” “Patriot,” “Freedom,” or “Constitution” in their tax-exempt applications for extra audits, prior to last year's elections.
“The question is, how stupid do they think we are?” Will exclaimed on Sunday’s broadcast of ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos. “Just imagine, Donna Brazile, if the George W. Bush administration had IRS underlings, out in Cincinnati of course, saying, ‘We're going to target groups with the word 'progressive' in their title,’ we would have all hell breaking loose.”
“The Tea Party people have known about this and were working on this,” Will said. “But they said — it was just some odd underlings out in Cincinnati who did this and there was no political motive whatever involved.”
This is the 40th anniversary of the Watergate summer here in Washington Will pointed out.
He then noted that one of the items in the 1973 impeachment articles of then-President Richard Nixon, which ultimately led to his resignation, described the Nixon administration’s use of the power of income tax audits in a “discriminatory matter.”
"He has through his subordinates and agents endeavored to cause in violation of the constitutional rights of citizens, income tax audits or other income tax investigations to be initiated or conducted in a discriminatory manner."
Will’s comparison sent “shivers came up and down my spine,” Karl Rove, Former Chief Advisor to President Bush and Founder of American Crossroads said Monday on Fox.
“We would have every major liberal newspaper in America calling for an investigation, hinting at impeachment,” he said. “It would be leading the evening news, we would have every group that had liberal or progressive tendencies demanding answers and marching on the White House and leaders of Congress—Democrats in Congress, demanding to have answers—it would be a nightmare at the Bush White house had this been done on our watch.”
During today's contentious press briefing, White House spokesman Jay Carney categorically denied that anyone inside the White House knew about the IRS' policy of applying heightened scrutiny to conservative organizations prior to late April of this year. Minutes later, he was forced to walk back his own assertion, instead claiming that he personally was "not aware" of anyone at the White House having knowledge of that IRS practice:
This was a significant and telling mistake. The only straight answer of the afternoon was hastily revised under antagonistic questioning from a skeptical press corps. This looks sloppy and slippery at best, suspicious at worst. Former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer explains how and why Carney made a serious misstep:
How can Jay say w certainty no one at WH, or on political staff, spoke w IRS?Has he interviewed everyone? Who did he ask?— Ari Fleischer (@AriFleischer) May 14, 2013
I tried to warn Jay (in an earlier tweet). " Did anyone know" is an impossible question. Jay fell into the trap.— Ari Fleischer (@AriFleischer) May 14, 2013
Speaking to reporters Tuesday afternoon, Attorney General Eric Holder revealed that he recused himself months, maybe years ago, from the Associated Press [AP] phone line investigation. It was revealed yesterday that the Department of Justice had tapped 20 work and personal phone lines of AP reporters and editors due to a suspected national security leak.
"I recused myself from this matter...it was early on," Holder said, unable to give an exact date.
By law, Holder is responsible for signing off on subpoenas that would allow such an intrusive invasion of privacy and on free speech. However, because he recused himself from the case, his Deputy Attorney General James Cole signed off on the case and the subpoenas. As a reminder, Cole was also embroiled in the Fast and Furious scandal with Holder.
"I don't know what the circumstances were here....I frankly don't have the knowledge of those facts," Holder said when asked about the AP phone tapping, adding that he believes DOJ officials followed all proper subpoena procedures. "This administration has put a real value on the rule of law."
The law requires Justice Department probes into reporter communications be very limited and precise. In the AP case, 20 phone lines, both personal and private, were monitored.
"I would refer you to the Deputy Attorney General," Holder said when asked if the scope of the probe was too big.
When asked about the IRS targeting conservative groups, Holder said he has opened a criminal investigation into the case to see if any laws were broken.
As details about the Department of Justice secretly monitoring phones lines of Associated Press reporters and the IRS inappropriately targeting tea party groups continue to emerge, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney tried to reassure reporters Tuesday afternoon that President Obama is committed to protecting the First Amendment while refusing to comment about details of both cases.
"I cannot comment on the specifics of that [AP phone tapping]," Carney said. "He [Obama] cannot appropriately comment on the specifics of an ongoing criminal investigation."
Throughout his remarks, Carney stressed the importance of First Amendment and national security balance. It should be noted the Obama administration has prosecuted twice as many 'leakers' than all other administrations combined. Carney repeatedly referred questions to the Department of Justice for information about the phone tapping.
"It would be wholly inappropriate for President to involve himself in a criminal investigation," Carney said in response to a question about whether President Obama has called Attorney General Eric Holder about the AP scandal. "The President is committed to the press' ability to pursue information and protecting the First Amendment.....he is also mindful of secret and classified information needing to stay secret and classified for national security reasons "
Carney also said the only information the White House receives about ongoing investigations within the Department of Justice, including the AP phone tapping, "comes only from press reports."
On the IRS inappropriately targeting conservative and tea party groups, Carney had little comment and repeatedly referred to a coming inspector general report on the matter. Carney also said he's confident nobody in the Obama administration or on the Obama campaign team was involved in any of these scandals, yet went out of his way to state the White House still doesn't have 'all of the facts.' Carney refused to say whether the President believes IRS officials should be fired over inappropriate targeting.
"We cannot and should not prejudge the outcome of a situation before we know what the facts are," Carney said. "We don't want to appropriate consequences [before we know all of the facts]."
Carney continued to say "if" the IRS in fact targeting conservative groups, it would be inappropriate. IRS official Lois Lerner admitted last week that inappropriate targeting in fact took place.
When asked about the recent comparisons of President Obama to Richard Nixon, Carney said, "People who make those comparisons need to check their history."
"It's outrageous. It's totally inexcusable...the object of it is to intimidate people who talk to reporters. There's no excuse for it whatsoever."
Mitchell and Scarborough both marvel at how that the White House doesn't seem to grasp how damaging these metastasizing scandals really are just yet. National Journal's Ron Fournier, who's been a beacon of clarity on these stories from the get-go, intones that unless things turn around quickly, the IRS revelation in particular threatens to consume the remainder of Obama's presidency. I'll leave you with a quote from an anonymous Democrat strategist, who is severely alarmed by the swirling mess the administration has created for itself:
They have a small window- I'd say 2-5 days- to try and turn this around and hold on to a plausible veneer of not being a group of shadowy thugs. But given how tone def they've been in the past, my money is on this being the lens through which their next 3.5 years are viewed.
"Shadowy thugs"? That's the Chicago Way.
Attorney General Eric Holder has recused himself from the Associated Press leak investigation. He will officially announce his recusal at a press conference Tuesday afternoon. Fox News is reporting his recusal comes partially because Holder has testified about potential national security leaks surrounding a May 7, 2012 Associated Press story.
Yesterday, the Associated Press revealed the Department of Justice had been secretly monitoring both the personal and work phones of numerous AP editors and reporters. DOJ responded to these revelations by releasing the following statement.
We take seriously our obligations to follow all applicable laws, federal regulations, and Department of Justice policies when issuing subpoenas for phone records of media organizations. Those regulations require us to make every reasonable effort to obtain information through alternative means before even considering a subpoena for the phone records of a member of the media. We must notify the media organization in advance unless doing so would pose a substantial threat to the integrity of the investigation. Because we value the freedom of the press, we are always careful and deliberative in seeking to strike the right balance between the public interest in the free flow of information and the public interest in the fair and effective administration of our criminal laws.
UPDATE: During a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Holder said he recused himself from the case "early on."