Surprise: NYT Covers Christie Bridge Rehash, Not IRS Scandal, on Front Page

Posted: Jun 24, 2014 5:16 PM

Last week, America's self-proclaimed "paper of record" saw fit to run an A1 story on the Scott Walker smear heard 'round the media -- which we pilloried as one of the worst episodes of laziness, bias and journalistic malpractice in recent memory. (The Wall Street Journal's scathing editorial on the subject was also excellent). Today, the New York Times' front page was bereft of any IRS coverage, despite yesterday evening's contentious Congressional hearing. Noah Rothman grabbed screenshots of both the Gray Lady's print and online versions this morning. Lois Lerner's missing emails and IRS Commissioner John Koskonin's evasions were no where to be found:

We'll return to the IRS matter in a moment, but first, a quick detour. The Times included an above-the-fold article about another bridge-related controversy "said to be linked" to Chris Christie. The story summarizes a mind-numbingly boring dispute over Christie's 2011 maneuvering to divert funds originally earmarked for a canceled Port Authority tunnel project to fix an aging bridge instead. The heart of this red hot story is whether the bridge repairs were technically within the Port Authority's purview. The Christie administration says the deal was reviewed and approved by attorneys on all sides of the deal, and a left-wing magazine reported that New York's Democratic Governor, Andrew Cuomo, also signed off on the agreement. The Nation's story was published in...early April. The Bergen Record first had the story in March. In fact, the Times itself printed a story about the SEC investigating the bipartisan transportation pact two weeks ago. Today's article, therefore, is little more than a re-run, with the only obvious hook being Chris Christie and the word "bridge." In the Times' pristine news judgment, this non-update to an abstruse transit funding flap merited front page amplification. An investigation into the federal government's most punitive agency's ritual and deliberate targeting of Americans for their political beliefs -- and the intensifying brouhaha over the suspicious disappearance of revelant evidence -- received nary a mention. So what happened in last night's session? Dan caught you up on this morning's proceedings ("they did not follow the law"), and Katie's posted two of the more revealing exchanges. Mr. Koskinen couldn't recall how he was informed of Lerner's missing emails, or by whom. He fudged on the timeline about when he discovered the truth, making excuses for why the agency didn't inform Congress immediately. The most telling question and answers, in my book, came during Rep. Jason Chaffetz's session, which Greg tagged last night:

(1) Koskinen had absolutely no credible explanation for why the IRS did not at least retrieve six months' worth of Lerner's deleted emails stored on the 'back-up tape,' which he testified was in their possession when the hard drive crashed (ten days after the first Congressional inquiry into the targeting was lodged). He said it would have been difficult and "costly." How does that square with his "extraordinary efforts to retrieve her emails" testimony? (2) He also admitted that to his knowledge, the Inspector General who investigated the improper targeting was not made aware that these central players' emails had gone "missing" in 2011. Democrats, who've scurrilously attacked the IG's credibility, nevertheless like to quote his conclusion that he found no evidence of White House collusion. It now appears he was in the dark about all those deleted emails when he reached his conclusion. Koskinen insists the White House has cleared that all up by asserting that they'd had zero direct contacts with Lerner (what about the other six people?) between 2009 and 2011. And we should obviously be trust them implicitly because they've never withheld relevant emails from a politically-charged investigation. The commissioner also doubled down on his claim that the emails weren't necessarily "official records" governed by various regulations and federal laws. Once again, here's the IRS manual's explanation of what "counts:"

The Federal Records Act applies to email records just as it does to records you create using other media. Emails are records when they are: Created or received in the transaction of agency business; Appropriate for preservation as evidence of the government’s function and activities; or Valuable because of the information they contain

Lerner's emails arguably meet all three criteria.

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