A top IRS official in the division that reviews nonprofit groups will invoke the 5th Amendment and refuse to answer questions before a House committee investigating the agency’s improper screening of conservative nonprofit groups. Lois Lerner, the head of the exempt organizations division of the IRS, won’t answer questions about what she knew about the improper screening — or why she didn’t disclose it to Congress, according to a letter from her defense lawyer, William W. Taylor III. Lerner was scheduled to appear before the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday. “She has not committed any crime or made any misrepresentation but under the circumstances she has no choice but to take this course,” said a letter by Taylor to committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Vista).
Ah. Lerner's committed no crime, her lawyer insists, but she's going to decline to answer Congress' questions in order to avoid, er, incriminating herself. Just to cement her own tone-deafness, Lerner had her lawyer attempt to exempt her from today's proceedings for reasons that will garner precious little sympathy from the American people:
Since Lerner won’t answer questions, Taylor asked that she be excused from appearing, saying that would “have no purpose other than to embarrass or burden her.” There was no immediate word whether the committee will grant her request.
Lerner taking 5th is worst hearing outcome for WH: hint of potential criminality to screw-ups IG didn't find partisan, much less criminal— John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) May 21, 2013
From the start, the White House's response on this potentially explosive matter has been grudging at best and, in retrospect, ignorant or arrogant or both ... We still don't know the details of how the special scrutiny of conservative groups began in 2010, who approved it, or who first learned about it higher up at the IRS and the Treasury Department. The White House says that it knew nothing about the matter until the counsel received a heads up about the pending IG report. And yet tea party and other conservative groups had been complaining about the IRS scrutiny since 2010, and IRS officials had publicly reassured members of Congress that there was nothing unusual or unwarranted going on. With two winning presidential campaigns built on successful grassroots fundraising, with a former White House counsel (in 2010-11) who is one of the Democrats' leading experts on campaign law (Bob Bauer), with former top campaign officials having been ensconced as staffers in the White House (David Axelrod, who left for the reelection campaign in early 2011, and Dan Pfeiffer among others), it's hard to imagine that the Obama inner circle was oblivious to the issue of what the IRS was doing in Cincinnati.
UPDATE - To further whet your appetite for this morning's parade of pleading the fifth, here's FactCheck.org's roster of IRS lies and misstatements so far, several of which have been perpetrated by Ms. Lerner. As Carol reminded us last night, though, Lerner doesn't have carte blanche to evade questions. She can only invoke her right against self-incrimination if her answer could "put her in legal jeopardy."
He's baaaaacccckkkkk. Former Rep. Anthony Weiner is back in the political arena and has officially kicked off his campaign for Mayor of New York City.
The ex-congressman whose career imploded in a rash of raunchy tweets two years ago said in a YouTube video announcement late Tuesday that he's in the New York City mayoral race. He'd said last month he was considering it.
"I made some big mistakes and I know I let a lot of people down, but I also learned some tough lessons," he said in the video. "I'm running for mayor because I've been fighting for the middle class and those struggling to make it my entire life. And I hope I get a second chance."
With that, Weiner is embarking on an audacious comeback quest, hoping to go from punch line pol whose tweeted crotch shot was emblazoned on the nation's consciousness to leader of America's biggest city.
For good measure, here's a flashback of when Andrew Breitbart hijacked Anthony Weiner's resignation press conference.
And remember when Weiner apologized the Breitbart?
Breitbart received the tip about Weiner's photos on Twitter on May 20, 2011. Weiner officially launched his campaign for NYC Mayor on May 21, nearly two years to the day after that scandal happened.
An FBI agent has shot and killed a man reportedly connected to the Boston bombing suspects in Orlando.
According to NBC News, a special agent was interviewing the suspect regarding his connections to bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev and other extremists. The suspect, who was not immediately identified by officials, was originally cooperative, but he was shot after attacking the agent.
A friend of the suspect, Khusn Taramiv, said his friend, 27-year-old Ibragim Todashev, was being investigated as part of the Boston bombings and knew Tsarnaev because both were MMA fighters.
Taramiv claims he and Todashev were interviewed by the FBI for nearly three hours on Tuesday.
H/T Ed Morrissey
Last night on Fox News' Special Report, anchor Bret Baier revealed that the Department of Justice not only secretly monitored the phone lines of Chief Washington Correspondent James Rosen, but of his parents as well.
On Hannity, host Sean Hannity revealed that five Fox News reporters were targeted by the Justice Department and that Fox News' phones lines at the White House, Pentagon, and lines belonging to Fox News executives were also monitored.
Ronald C. Machen, Jr., the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, who is prosecuting the case, has seized records associated with two phone numbers at the White House, at least five numbers associated with Fox News, and one that has the same area code and exchange as Rosen’s personal-cell-phone number (the last four numbers are redacted).
Yesterday, the Washington Post reported that, as part of the investigation of the Kim leak, Obama’s Department of Justice seized e-mails from Rosen’s personal Gmail account. In the search warrant for that request, the government described Rosen as “an aider, and abettor, and / or co-conspirator” in violating the Espionage Act, noting that the crime can be punished by ten years in prison. Rosen was not indicted in the case, but the suggestion in a government document that a reporter could be guilty of espionage for engaging in routine reporting is unprecedented and has alarmed many journalists and civil libertarians.
The document uncovered today suggests the government seized “call detail” records from Rosen’s work and cell phones, which would show whom he called, who called him, how long they spoke, and the times of the calls. The document suggests that the government was seeking only the subscriber records for the two White House numbers targeted, information that a government source said would include the name of the official who used the specific line.
Anchor Greta Van Susteran took to Twitter to express her frustration with the secret monitoring, saying friends and family won't call or email anymore out a of a fear of being watched.
"Now that the word is out that Obama Admin seizes Fox phone records, my friends won't call me at work and since the Obama admin also seizes personal cell and email, my friends wont' call or email," Van Susteran tweeted.
The news of more Fox News' monitoring comes weeks after the Associated Press revealed the Justice Department had secretly monitored 20 personal and private phone lines used by AP reporters and editors. In addition, CBS News Investigative Reporter Sharyl Attkisson said yesterday that her work and personal computers had been compromised.
Again, you can bet this isn't the end of this. Attorneys from news organizations all over the place are filing requests in order to see if their reporters have been secretly monitored.
This was not unexpected, of course, but for those unfamiliar with the legislation, here are the nuts and bolts of the committee-approved bill:
The Senate Judiciary Committee gave final approval Tuesday to a sweeping immigration reform bill, setting up a debate on the Senate floor for early June.
Three Republicans joined 10 Democrats to support the bill, which would create a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants, invest billions in new border security measures and overhaul the legal immigration system.
The vote came after the committee deliberated for five days and considered more than 150 amendments. But the Gang of Eight, which drafted the legislation, held together and fended off all but minor changes.
Earlier in the evening, safe passage of the bill seemed somewhat uncertain when Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy refused to withhold an amendment that would, according to Politico, “allow gay Americans to sponsor their foreign-born spouses for green cards.” Certainly, it was one of the more controversial measures under consideration, and he wisely -- albeit begrudgingly -- dropped it when it became patently obvious the bill would die in committee if he didn’t.
“I don’t want to be the senator who asks Americans to choose between the love of their life and the love of their country,” he said.
Tomorrow, Lois Lerner -- director of Exempt Organizations at the IRS when all the targeting occurred -- is going to come to Capitol Hill and take the Fifth Amendment.
It will be quite a spectacle.
As a matter of law, a jury cannot use someone's invocation of the Fifth Amendment as evidence of guilt. But we are not in a court of law -- we are in the court of public opinion, as everyone in The White House knows, and Lerner wouldn't be taking the Fifth unless she was in danger of prosecution . . . or otherwise had something to hide. No one chooses this course in a public matter of this kind unless the alternatives all are far worse for someone.
It's doubtful that any prosecution of Lerner could be based on her disgraceful conduct in allowing the targeting to occur. Indeed, it is hard to see how Lerner could be prosecuted criminally for her actions as head of the EO, although the IRS could itself be sued by eligible 501(c)(3) organizations for its failure to timely process their applications.Rather, if she is truly trying to avoid prosecution herself (as opposed to simply shielding higher-ups from some other kind of disclosure), it is probably connected to her repeated untruths before Congress.
Note that Lerner can only take the Fifth in response to questions where the answer might possibly incriminate her. That means she is obligated to answer questions that do not put her in legal jeopardy. One question she might fruitfully be asekd follows up on an inquiry that Senator Baucus made today of Steven Miller. Senator Baucus asked if any of the IRS employees who had drafted the "inappropriate criteria" targeting conservatives had been disciplined. It appears none have.
But in addition, remember that -- according to the IG report, page 7 -- in June 2011, Lerner supposedly demanded that the criteria be changed after "being briefed" on them (did she know about them, incidentally, before being "briefed" on them?). That happened, according to the report, in July 2011. Yet the criteria were changed back to focusing on organizations' policy positions in January of 2012, supposedly by the "team of specialists" at the bottom of the organizational food chain. Lerner should be asked who these people were; whether she knew the criteria had been changed back (the report refers only to " without executive approval" without specifying which executive's approval wasn't obtained); and whether those "specialists" were disciplined or any action was taken after they supposedly flouted her directions in June 2011 to change the criteria for organizations applying for tax-exempt status.
Finally, it's also worth pointing out that Lerner has been implicated before in efforts to harass conservative organizations. At the Weekly Standard, Mark Hemingway reports on Lerner's tenure as head of the Enforcement Office at the FEC, especially the incredibly intrusive and inappropriate investigation of the Christian Coalition. She should be asked about that investigation and how she came to approve it, and why she thinks it was appropriate.
Here’s a significant and little-known news item from yesterday that unsurprisingly flew under the radar: Vermont became the third U.S. state -- and the first via the legislative process -- to legalize physician-assisted suicide. Life News has the details:
With Governor Peter Shumlin’s signature on a bill the state legislature approved, Vermont [yesterday] becomes the third state after Oregon and Washington to legalize assisted suicide.
Shumlin signed a bill [yesterday] legalizing physician-assisted suicide for patients deemed to have a “terminal condition.” The move immediately drew opposition from leading pro-life groups.
As it should. Catherine Glenn Foster, litigation counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom and a Townhall columnist, explained some of the problems with the bill mere hours before the initiative passed the state legislature:
Defenders of the bill contend that there is no risk of its misuse because it applies only to a person with a “terminal illness.” Yet we have seen the definition of “terminal illness” expanded “broad enough to include an 18-year-old who is insulin dependent or dependent on kidney dialysis, or a young adult with stable HIV/AIDS. Each of these patients could live for decades with appropriate medical treatment.”
And defenders say that because the bill is only for a person who has the capacity to choose life or death, its provisions will be difficult to abuse.
In saying this, they miss the fact that the person killing himself or herself takes “prescribed medication,” which necessitates the involvement of a second party—a doctor. That opens the door for people, particularly those who depend on others in some way and are most in need of care and protection, to be influenced toward death, whether by an unscrupulous physician or a well-intentioned but coercive family member.
In other words, it’s not uncommon for “terminal” patients to feel persuaded -- or perhaps even coerced -- into taking life-ending drugs. Why? Because they’ve determined that their own lives have become, well, a source of financial distress and/or inconvenience to those whom are closest to them. How sad. It’s no surprise, then, that the American Medical Association is staunchly opposed to such practices, which obviously undermine the sanctity and dignity of human life. Back to the Life News article:
The American Medical Association has also remained firm in its opposition to physician-assisted suicide. Regarding the issue, the AMA states, “Physician-assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer, would be difficult or impossible to control, and would pose serious societal risks.”
And yet now this newly passed “health care” law is perhaps on Vermont’s statute books forever. Splendid. Of course, partisans on both sides of the aisle can debate the merits of physician-assisted suicide, and whether or not it is morally defensible (which I don’t believe it is), but there is absolutely no denying the fact that this loosely-worded law is in many respects deeply flawed. And, as a result, I suspect it will have devastating consequences -- not only for patients themselves who ingest these lethal and toxic substances, but for their families and loved ones as well.
Simply stunning, via the Associated Press:
U.S. officials say they have identified five men they believe might be behind the attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, last year. The officials say they have enough evidence to justify seizing them by military force as suspected terrorists — but not enough proof to try them in a U.S. civilian court as the Obama administration prefers. So the officials say the men remain at large while the FBI gathers more evidence. The decision not to seize the men militarily underscores the White House's aim to move away from hunting terrorists as enemy combatants and toward trying them as criminals in a civilian justice system.
Consider the implications of this report: Our government/military/intelligence community has the information and capacity to haul in at least five of the suspected Benghazi terrorists, but eight months after the deadly raid, they remain free men entirely because of the Obama administration's ideological obsession with furnishing foreign terrorists with civilian trials. Will the American people stand for this? Remember, this is the same White House that refuses to close the door on using drone strikes to kill US citizens on American soil even if they aren't in the act of carrying out an imminent attack. They've already liquidated several Al Qaeda-linked US citizens on foreign soil. They've expanded "signature strikes" and changed the metric for calculating civilian casualties. In this case, we've identified five foreign nationals who we've determined to be responsible for participating in the sacking our Benghazi consulate and the murder of four Americans -- including a sitting ambassador -- yet they're roaming the streets indefinitely while we try to build an airtight criminal case against them. President Drone's double-standard here is completely baffling beyond the realm of political posturing. Obama feels the need to distinguish himself from his predecessor, even as he adopts and expands many Bush-era policies. So he's doubled down on civilian trials for terrorists and banning certain harsh interrogation techniques. In fairness, such techniques are only useful in wringing actionable intel from captured terrorists. Obama's policy essentially dictates that terrorists either be (a) summarily executed or (b) afforded the legal rights on US citizens. That's insane. Entire books have been written about the perils of treating global jihad and terrorism as a routine law enforcement proposition, but this new development reads like dark satire.
After the Boston bombings, we had a robust debate about the appropriate legal treatment for Dzokhar Tsarnaev, an American citizen arrested on US soil. Authorities decided not to treat him as an enemy combatant, which I thought was the right call, despite the deeply questionable and premature Miranda warning issuance. Here, we've apparently decided to not even detain a handful of foreign nationals believed to have participated in the 9/11/12 terrorist attacks because we're skittish about "rights" and other legal niceties (that arguably shouldn't even apply to foreign terrorists at all) that may complicate their run-of-the-mill civilian trials back home. Incredible. I'll leave you with this irony: Even if you share the Obama administration's view that foreign terrorists should be treated like Americans with a full panoply of legal rights, the goal of securing convictions from domestic juries was severely hampered by the Benghazi talking points flap. Because the State Department and White House contorted Susan Rice's talking points beyond recognition for political reasons, she appeared on national television and directly contradicted Libyan officials' (accurate) assessments with false information. This infuriated the Libyans, who proceeded to drag their feet on granting the FBI access to the attack site. Or the "crime scene," depending on how you look at it. In other words, one of the administration's political games (manipulating the talking points) ended up stifling the crucial evidence-gathering stage of any successful criminal investigation -- which, in turn, is a central element of the White House's highly political "criminal justice" approach to terrorism. Welcome to "accountability," Obama style. It's ad hoc, incoherent, politicized madness.
UPDATE - Allahpundit wonders if something's up and floats an interesting theory:
The fact that O’s allegedly willing to ignore all that and demand criminal procedures suggests something else is up. Theory: The Libyan government is resisting U.S. officials’ requests to either authorize a drone strike or let special forces hit the ground to round these people up. Acquiescing in a heavy-handed American military action against the locals could be dangerous for a weak regime that’s surrounded (sometimes literally) by jihadists and various militias. If O ignores their warnings and attacks the Benghazi five anyway, and the government there is consequently destabilized, he’ll take all kinds of heat for that. If he holds off at their request and blames them for obstructing him via leaks to the media, he’ll take all kinds of heat for not insisting upon justice for the murderers of an American diplomat. So, possibly, he’s chosen the middle course — hold off on attacking but claim it’s because he’s building a criminal case, which at least promises future action.
And this is only half funny: "Imagine the subpoenas being prepared at this very moment to find out who leaked them this scoop on Benghazi."
IRS offices in Flagstaff and Prescott, Ariz. were temporarily closed Tuesday as protests of IRS offices around the country were planned by Tea Party activists.
"They have a notice up that says 'temporarily closed," said Tom Case, a Lake Havasu resident.
Case drove three hours and 200 miles Tuesday with his wife to participate in the IRS protest of the Flagstaff office, located at 1633 S. Plaza Way. This was going to be Case's first rally.
"I follow the politics of the Tea Party, I'm not necessarily a hardcore tea party person," Case said. "This IRS thing to me is just a total example of an out of control government. Benghazi, the AP, Fast and Furious those are all terrible things that are happening to us but this one at this point is just beyond all reasonable doubt that this Administration and big government in general is just totally out of control and none of the people in charge seem to know what's going on. That bothers me more than anything."
The voicemail message at the Flagstaff office states that the location is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and explains IRS closures for all offices on May 24th due to sequestration. The message also explains the office will "resume normal operations the next business day," which would be Monday, May 27. There is no mention of a temporary closing for Tuesday, May 21.
Townhall put in a request with the national IRS office in Washington D.C. for an explanation as to why these offices are closed, how long they have been closed and when they will re-open. Townhall also contacted Bill Brunson in the IRS media relations office for Arizona. At time of publishing, IRS officials did not respond with a comment.
Obama donor Bill Maher and wealthy filmmaker Michael Moore claimed Republicans are treasonous anti-Americans on HBO’s Real Time Friday because of their disagreements with Obama.
“What about trying to repealing it [Obamacare] for the 37th time? Is that a wise use of our resources and time? I mean, at some point obstruction becomes treason,” Maher said. “I mean they’ve also blocked Obama’s head of the EPA. There’s no head of the circuit court in D.C. You know, at some point it just becomes more about hating him [Barrack Obama] than loving your country.”
“No, they hate America. That’s really what it is,” Moore eagerly replied . “I think these conservatives and right-wingers really–for as much as they say they love this country–they hate it. They hate the government. They hate people… why is the government the big, evil bastard here?”
Maher asked Moore to clarify whether the government and the country are two different things, but Moore maintained his claim.
“No, It shouldn’t be,” Moore said. “The government is supposed to be of, by and for the people, right? So why is the government the big evil bastard here?”
“Cause, Mike, it got taken over by a Kenyan socialist, that’s why!” Maher mockingly intoned with a faux southern accent, “That’s why we need our guns. We might have to take over the government.”
Moore then said he is not depressed about the Republican Party because the next generation embraces liberal ideas like gun control and gay marriage.
“They are not bigots, they are not haters” he said and then called the GOP a “squealing dinosaur.”
They support less religion Maher added, prompting an aggressive applause from the audience.