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."
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus is calling on U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to resign in light of the Department of Justice secretly monitoring Associated Press reporters' and editors' phone conversations. Priebus is calling the move by the DOJ a direct violation of the First Amendment.
“Freedom of the press is an essential right in a free society. The First Amendment doesn’t request the federal government to respect it; it demands it. Attorney General Eric Holder, in permitting the Justice Department to issue secret subpoenas to spy on Associated Press reporters, has trampled on the First Amendment and failed in his sworn duty to uphold the Constitution," Priebus said in a statement. "Because Attorney General Holder has so egregiously violated the public trust, the president should ask for his immediate resignation. If President Obama does not, the message will be unmistakable: The President of the United States believes his administration is above the Constitution and does not respect the role of a free press.”
Attorney General Eric Holder will testify tomorrow in front of the House Judiciary Committee.
EDITORS NOTE: A previous version of this post mentioned the Second Amendment, it should have been the First Amendment.
Townhall went out to the streets of liberal New York City to find out how politically engaged the average liberal is. It appears that those who lazily equate MSNBC and Fox News probably don't watch either network, especially the latter, as Guy pointed out in March.
“I really only watch E! news,” one New Yorker told Townhall.
Nearly all of the interviewees strongly contended that Fox News was the most biased news network, but when asked why they believed it to be the most biased it became apparent that they had never watched the network, or news at all for that matter.
Fox News is more biased because “it talks more about politics” while CNN “talks about more international stuff,” another person responded.
In fact most of the people we spoke to, while strongly asserting that FOX was the most biased, could not identify the current or former Vice Presidents of the United States.
Take a look:
Z Street filed a lawsuit against the IRS in 2010 alleging that one of its attorneys were told its application for tax exemption was delayed and sent to a “special unit…to determine whether the organization’s activities contradict the Administration’s public policies.”
The White House and the State Department have made clear that the single adjustment that was made to those talking points by either of those two institutions were changing the word ‘consulate’ to ‘diplomatic facility’ because ‘consulate’ was inaccurate.”
"These Were CIA Points. They Were CIA Edited. They Were CIA Finalized."
This is profound dishonesty. The CIA presented finalized talking points to the administration, which proceeded to revise and scrub them a dozen different times, with many of the most politically-calculated edits triggered by State Department bigwigs. The original assessment represented the best intel. The finished product was unrecognizable. Pinning that on the CIA is a shameless and risky proposition. And the president is playing with fire with false claims about his own forthrightness; he was just awarded Four Pinocchios by the Washington Post for Benghazi-related statement he made at yesterday's press conference.
(3) The Obama Justice Department Secretly Monitored Dozens of Journalists' Phone Records for Months - With the mainstream media warming to the task of covering the previous two scandals, Monday evening's compounding bombshell couldn't have dropped at a worse time for the White House. Because it's a jarring affront to press freedom, journalists are likely to take it personally. Indeed, many in the Washington press corps are friendly with the reporters and editors whose work and personal phone records were quietly culled by the federal government. Gasoline, meet fire. It appears the DOJ's aim here was to identify and plug an administration leak, which they sought to accomplish by resorting to a "massive and unprecedented intrusion" into the business of a very wide swath of journalists -- who by definition aren't the ones doing the leaking. The Associated Press' write-up explains why the Justice Department's heavy-handed and surreptitious action in this case was exceptional:
The Justice Department lays out strict rules for efforts to get phone records from news organizations. A subpoena can be considered only after "all reasonable attempts" have been made to get the same information from other sources, the rules say. It was unclear what other steps, in total, the Justice Department might have taken to get information in the case. A subpoena to the media must be "as narrowly drawn as possible" and "should be directed at relevant information regarding a limited subject matter and should cover a reasonably limited time period," according to the rules. The reason for these constraints, the department says, is to avoid actions that "might impair the news gathering function" because the government recognizes that "freedom of the press can be no broader than the freedom of reporters to investigate and report the news." News organizations normally are notified in advance that the government wants phone records and then they enter into negotiations over the desired information. In this case, however, the government, in its letter to the AP, cited an exemption to those rules that holds that prior notification can be waived if such notice, in the exemption's wording, might "pose a substantial threat to the integrity of the investigation."
"Punish our enemies." How interesting.
When news broke last week just ahead of an IRS inspector general report detailing the specific and inappropriate targeting of conservative tea party groups, IRS officials claimed the targeting was the result of a few low-level IRS agents in Cincinnati. It turns out, that isn't true. Not only did senior IRS officials know about the targeting as early as 2011, but officials in California and more importantly, Washington D.C., helped carry it out.
Internal Revenue Service officials in Washington and at least two other offices were involved with investigating conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, making clear that the effort reached well beyond the branch in Cincinnati that was initially blamed, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.
IRS officials at the agency’s Washington headquarters sent queries to conservative groups asking about their donors and other aspects of their operations, while officials in the El Monte and Laguna Niguel offices in California sent similar questionnaires to tea-party-affiliated groups, the documents show.
The IRS has been caught in three lies up to this point. The first: IRS official Lois Lerner admitted to the inappropriate targeting of tea party groups but said the targeting in no way was politically motivated. That is a lie. The IRS targeted conservative groups and flagged words and phrases like "constitution," "patriot," "government spending," "limiting government," "9/12," "making America a better place to live," etc. The entire thing was political. The second: Initially IRS officials said the targeting was conducted by a few "low-level" agents working in Cincinnati. It turns out, the Cincinnati IRS office is anything but "low-level" and is the place to go when applying for tax-exempt status.
Upon a review of the IRS bureaucracy, though, the Cincinnati office is not a random backwater outpost for "low-level" IRS rogues. In fact, the Cincinnati office is where determinations on tax-exempt organizations' eligibility are made and is the only physical office in the complex IRS bureaucracy dedicated to tax-exempt determinations.
On the IRS's website, in the "How to Contact the Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division" section, the Cincinnati office is the only one listed for people to contact if they have questions about "Charities & Non-Profits."
The third: IRS officials claimed nobody in Washington D.C. was a part of ongoing targeting and that senior IRS officials knew nothing about this when in fact, as noted above, senior officials knew as early as 2011.
Senior officials at the Internal Revenue Service were aware that its agents were targeting Tea Party groups as early as 2011, according to an Inspector General's draft report obtained by Fox News.
Lois Lerner, who runs the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt organizations, knew about the targeting of Tea Party groups since June 29, 2011.
Yesterday President Obama said if conservative groups were being targeted by the IRS, which we know they in fact were being targeted, that he's "got no patience for it."