Chaffetz called the hearing to question officials about why whole and partial documents had been withheld from Congress, including unclassified files.
Sarah Westwood reports: FBI Director James Comey refused to attend a classified briefing with the House Oversight Committee despite receiving an invitation to testify about the bureau’s reluctance to disclose thousands of pages of evidence compiled in its year-long investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email use.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, the committee’s top Democrat, said Monday that Comey had declined to appear at the meeting because he had “already bent over backwards” to explain the FBI’s decision-making in the Clinton email case.
But Rep. Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the Oversight Committee, disputed the suggestion that he had invited Comey to the public hearing on redactions in notes from the Clinton email case, noting he had discussed specific points of concern in a personal phone call with the FBI director but had not issued a subpoena for Comey’s presence at the hearing.
Chaffetz called the hearing to question officials about why whole and partial documents had been withheld from Congress, including unclassified files.
“I don’t expect to have to issue a subpoena to see unclassified information,” Chaffetz said. Read the rest of this entry »
Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey uses his legal expertise to tackle the FBI’s verdict on the Hillary Clinton email scandal, the Obama administration’s counterterrorism policies, the objectivity of judges, and more in this Viewpoint interview.
“Commissioner violated the public trust. He failed to comply with a congressionally issued subpoena, documents were destroyed on his watch, and the public was consistently misled.”
“Impeachment is the appropriate tool to restore public confidence in the IRS and to protect the institutional interests of Congress. This action will demonstrate to the American people that the IRS is under repair, and signal that Executive Branch officials who violate the public trust will be held accountable.”
— Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz in a news release
“I believe there are two key ingredients of a successful performances in congressional hearings. One, shameless, grandiose, spectacular displays of emotion. This is important when TV cameras are present.”
“And two, extreme, earsplitting volume. The louder I yell, and the more emotional I am, you see, the better my performance is.”
“The facts, and the purpose of the hearing, are secondary to showing people how angry and upset I am. I pretend to be really, really upset.”
“The single most important factor in a successful performance is how much volume I can achieve, with my voice.”
“Being able to yell louder than anyone in the room is the most effective way to demonstrate that I am passionate, irrational, emotionally unstable, and a righteous and loyal member of my party.”
— from “The Elijah Cummings Guide to How to Perform in Televised Committee Hearings“, now in paperback.
FAINTING COUCH: Dem Rep Carolyn Maloney Freaks Out, Accuses Jason Chaffetz of ‘Beating’ Female Planned Parenthood Executive by…Asking Salary Questions?Posted: September 29, 2015
Carolyn Maloney Sees ‘War on Women‘ Discrimination in GOP Daring to Question Half Million a Year Salary of Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards.
“I find it totally inappropriate and discriminatory. I’ve never seen a witness beaten up and questioned about their salary.”
— Rep. Carolyn Maloney, suffering a full-blown Victorian case of the vapors
In a charged hearing filled with intense exchanges, Maloney accused Chaffetz of being out of line for questioning Richards’s rising salary.
“I find it totally inappropriate and discriminatory,” said Maloney, the top Democrat on the panel. “I’ve never seen a witness beaten up and questioned about their salary.”
Chaffetz questioned Planned Parenthood’s expenses on travel, its real estate holdings and Richards’s salary in suggesting it is not really putting its money behind women’s healthcare. He noted that Richards’s salary has gone up by more than $100,000 between 2009 and 2013. Read the rest of this entry »
Alexander Hendrie continues: The House Oversight Committee report cites an officially transcribed
interview with John Minsek, senior investigative analyst with the IRS Criminal Investigations (CI) unit. Minsek examined the Lerner hard drive in 2011. In the transcribed interview, he notes Lerner’s hard drive contained “well-defined scoring creating a concentric circle in the proximity of the center of the disk.” The Oversight Committee report states:
“Using the CI unit’s digital forensic facilities, Minsek opened the hard drive and conducted additional tests. Once he opened the hard drive, Minsek noticed “well-defined scoring creating a concentric circle in the proximity of the center of the disk.”
Ameri-Shred’s AMS-750HD hard drive shredder will shred 900 to 1800 hard drives per hour, depending on your voltage and shred width. It can be plant based or placed in a truck for mobile hard drive shredding.
So how did the scoring get there?
Last month, testimony from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) revealed that Lois Lerner’s hard drive had “scoring on the top platter of the drive.” The testimony also noted that the IRS technician that inspected the hard drive believed that additional steps could have been taken to recover data, although this did not occur and the hard drive was later destroyed by an industrial strength AMERI-SHRED AMS-750 HD shredder.
Given these facts, it is logical to question how the “scoring” occurred and whether there was foul play involved. Here it what is known thus far:
– According to TIGTA testimony submitted to the Oversight Committee on June 25, 2014, Lerner’s laptop stopped communicating with the IRS server on Saturday June 11, 2011, between 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.
– According to the same testimony,the laptop was likely physically located in Lerner’s office the moment it stopped communicating with the server: Read the rest of this entry »
When it was revealed in 2013 that the IRS had targeted conservative groups for exercising their First Amendment rights, President Obama correctly called the policy “inexcusable” and pledged accountability. He even fired the then-acting IRS commissioner because he said it was necessary to have “new leadership that can help restore confidence going forward.”
“A taxpayer would never get away with treating an IRS audit the way that IRS officials have treated the congressional investigation.”
Unfortunately, Commissioner Koskinen, who took over in the wake of the IRS targeting scandal, has failed the American people by frustrating Congress’s attempts to ascertain the truth. A taxpayer would never get away with treating an IRS audit the way that IRS officials have treated the congressional investigation. Civil officers like Mr. Koskinen have historically been held to a higher standard than private citizens because they have fiduciary obligations to the public. The IRS and Mr. Koskinen have breached these basic fiduciary duties:
• Destruction of evidence. Lois Lerner, at the time the director of the IRS’s exempt-organizations unit, invoked the Fifth Amendment on May 22, 2013, when appearing before Congress; her refusal to testify put a premium on obtaining and reviewing her email communications. On the same day the IRS’s chief technology officer issued a preservation order that instructed IRS employees “not to destroy/wipe/reuse any of the existing backup tapes for email, or archiving of other information from IRS personal computers.”
“John Koskinen has violated the public trust, breached his fiduciary obligations and demonstrated his unfitness to serve. Mr. President, it’s time for Commissioner Koskinen to go. If you don’t act, we will.”
Several weeks later, on Aug. 2, the House Oversight Committee issued its first subpoena for IRS documents, including all of Ms. Lerner’s emails. On Feb. 2, 2014, Kate Duval, the IRS commissioner’s counsel, identified a gap in the Lerner emails that were being collected. Days later, Ms. Duval learned that the gap had been caused in 2011 when the hard drive of Ms. Lerner’s computer crashed.
Despite all this—an internal IRS preservation order, a congressional subpoena, and knowledge about Ms. Lerner’s hard-drive and email problems—the Treasury inspector general for tax administration discovered that the agency on March 4, 2014, erased 422 backup tapes containing as many as 24,000 emails. (Congress learned of the discovery only last month.)
Ms. Duval has since left the IRS and now works at the State Department, where she is responsible for vetting Hillary Clinton’s emails sought by congressional investigations of the Benghazi attacks.
• Failure to inform Congress. Mr. Koskinen was made aware of the problems associated with Ms. Lerner’s emails the same month Ms. Duval discovered the gap. Yet the IRS withheld the information from Congress for four months, until June 13, 2014, when the agency used a Friday news dump to admit—on page seven of the third attachment to a letter sent to the Senate Finance Committee—that it had lost many of Ms. Lerner’s emails. Read the rest of this entry »
IRS workers erased 422 computer backup tapes that ‘most likely’ contained as many as 24,000 emails to and from former IRS official Lois Lerner, who has emerged as a central figure in congressional investigations, according to IRS’s inspector general.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Stephen Ohlemache reports: Investigators are blaming mistakes
by IRS employees — not a criminal conspiracy — for the loss of thousands of emails related to the tax agency’s tea party scandal.
IRS workers erased 422 computer backup tapes that “most likely” contained as many as 24,000 emails to and from former IRS official Lois Lerner, who has emerged as a central
figure in congressional investigations, according to IRS’s inspector general.
The workers erased the tapes a month after IRS officials discovered that an untold number of Lerner’s emails were lost. The IG says the workers were unaware of a year-old directive not to destroy email backup tapes.
J. Russell George, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration, is scheduled to testify Thursday before the House Oversight Committee about his investigation into the emails. The Associated Press obtained a copy of his prepared testimony.
George says his investigation “did not uncover evidence that the erasure was done in
furtherance of an effort to destroy evidence or conceal information from Congress and/or
Still, the revelation that computer tapes were erased after officials knew about the lost emails is likely to fuel conspiracy theories among conservatives who say the IRS has obstructed investigations into the scandal.
An IRS spokeswoman said Wednesday evening the agency had no immediate comment.
George set off a firestorm in May 2013 with an audit that said IRS agents improperly singled out tea party and other conservative groups for extra scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status during the 2010 and 2012 elections.
Several hundred groups had their applications delayed for a year or more. Some were asked inappropriate questions about donors and group activities, the inspector general’s report said.
— National Review (@NRO) June 25, 2015
Lerner used to head the IRS division that processes applications for tax-exempt status. In June 2014, the IRS told Congress it had lost an unknown number of Lerner’s emails when her computer hard drive crashed in 2011. Read the rest of this entry »
[VIDEO] White House ‘Wasn’t Forthcoming’ on Gruber’s Obamacare Role: Mark Halperin: ‘They were right. The Republicans were right’Posted: June 23, 2015
Emails show Jonathan Gruber, the economist who said Obamacare was written deceptively in order to pass the attention of stupid American voters, played a far wider role in the law’s instrumentation than the White House previously said.
Longtime political journalist and pundit Mark Halperin says he owes his Republican sources “an apology” after apparently doubting their claims that MIT economist Jonathan Gruber played a major role in crafting ObamaCare.
Halperin, Bloomberg Politics managing editor, addressed the controversy on MSNBC‘s “Morning Joe” on Monday, after a Wall Street Journal report first revealed emails showing Gruber playing a deeper role than previously thought.
“I owe all my Republican sources an apology because they kept telling me he was hugely involved, and the White House played it down,” Halperin said. “They were right. The Republicans were right.” Read the rest of this entry »
OPM IT Outsourced to Foreigner Contractors, with Root Access, Working from their Home Country. In this Case, Oh Yeah, ChinaPosted: June 17, 2015
Encryption ‘would not have helped’ at OPM, says DHS official: Attackers had valid user credentials and run of network, bypassing security
Sean Gallagher reports: During testimony today in a grueling two-hour hearing before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Director Katherine Archuleta claimed that she had recognized huge problems with the agency’s computer security when she assumed her post 18 months ago. But when pressed on why systems had not been protected with encryption prior to the recent discovery of an intrusion that gave attackers access to sensitive data on millions of government employees and government contractors, she said, “It is not feasible to implement on networks that are too old.” She added that the agency is now working to encrypt data within its networks.
But even if the systems had been encrypted, it likely wouldn’t have mattered. Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for Cybersecurity Dr. Andy Ozment testified that encryption would “not have helped in this case” because the attackers had gained valid user credentials to the systems that they attacked—likely through social engineering. And because of the lack of multifactor authentication on these systems, the attackers would have been able to use those credentials at will to access systems from within and potentially even from outside the network.
House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) told Archuleta and OPM Chief Information Officer Donna Seymour, “You failed utterly and totally.” He referred to OPM’s own inspector general reports and hammered Seymour in particular for the 11 major systems out of 47 that had not been properly certified as secure—which were not contractor systems but systems operated by OPM’s own IT department. “They were in your office, which is a horrible example to be setting,” Chaffetz told Seymour. In total, 65 percent of OPM’s data was stored on those uncertified systems.
Chaffetz pointed out in his opening statement that for the past eight years, according to OPM’s own Inspector General reports, “OPM’s data security posture was akin to leaving all your doors and windows unlocked and hoping nobody would walk in and take the information.”
When Chaffetz asked Archuleta directly about the number of people who had been affected by the breach of OPM’s systems and whether it included contractor information as well as that of federal employees, Archuleta replied repeatedly, “I would be glad to discuss that in a classified setting.” That was Archuleta’s response to nearly all of the committee members’ questions over the course of the hearing this morning.
At least we found it
Archuleta told the committee that the breach was found only because she had been pushing forward with an aggressive plan to update OPM’s security, centralizing the oversight of IT security under the chief information officer and implementing “numerous tools and capabilities.” She claimed that it was during the process of updating tools that the breach was discovered. “But for the fact that OPM implemented new, more stringent security tools in its environment, we would have never known that malicious activity had previously existed on the network and would not have been able to share that information for the protection of the rest of the federal government,” she read from her prepared statement. Read the rest of this entry »
SMIDGEN REPORT SPECIAL UPDATE: IRS Created ‘Special Project Team’ of ‘Hundreds of Lawyers’ to Hide Information from CongressPosted: June 5, 2015
The American Center for Law and Justice‘s Jay Sekulow reports: New testimony reveals that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) used “hundreds of attorneys” to hide critical information from Congress’s investigation of the IRS targeting of conservatives.
According to new congressional bombshell testimony today, the IRS set up a previously unknown “special project team” comprised of “hundreds of attorneys,” including the IRS Chief Counsel (one of only two politically appointed positions at the IRS).
The “special project” this team was given? Concealing information from Congress.
The IRS’s director of privacy, governmental liaison, and disclosure division, Mary Howard, testified that soon after the IRS targeting scandal was revealed, the IRS “amassed hundreds of attorneys to go through the documents [requested by Congress] and redact them.”
Members of Congress have long complained that many of the documents produced by the IRS have been “redacted to the point of absurdity.”
Now we know why.
As the Washington Times reports:
Mary Howard, who also works as the head Freedom of Information Act officer in the IRS, told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that once the “special project team” was created and operational, she never saw requests for information.
“My understanding was that it started soon after the request came from Congress and other investigators asking for documents around this whole issue,” which she surmised meant around spring of 2013.
In other words, as soon as the IRS targeting scandal broke, the IRS set up a special team of hundreds of attorneys, including President Obama’s political head of the Chief Counsel’s office, to keep requests for publicly available information away from the person who would normally review those documents and turn them over to Congress and the public. That “special” team then overly redacted, delayed, and determined which documents it wanted Congress to see.
After setting up a special “group” to target and delay applications by Tea Party groups for tax-exempt status, the IRS set up a new “special project team” to delay and redact information from Congress about that targeting. Can you smell a cover-up? Read the rest of this entry »
Top officials repeatedly misled investigators without consequences. Congress needs to get tougher.
Cleta Mitchell writes: Two years ago this week, a report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Information confirmed what hundreds of tea party, conservative, pro-life and pro-Israel organizations had long known: The Internal Revenue Service had stopped processing their applications for exempt status and subjected them to onerous, intrusive and discriminatory practices because of their political views.
“Lying to Congress is a felony. But the Obama Justice Department has not lifted a finger to prosecute anyone responsible for the IRS scandal, including top brass who repeatedly gave false testimony to Congress.”
Since the report, additional congressional investigations have revealed a lot about IRS dysfunction—and worse. But they’ve also revealed Congress’s inability to exercise its constitutional oversight responsibilities of this and other executive agencies.
Consider the repeated testimony and other statements to Congress subsequently shown to be false. The report issued in December by Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.)—then chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform—details numerous instances in which senior IRS officials, including former Commissioner Doug Shulman, Acting Commissioner Steven Miller and Exempt Organizations Director Lois Lernerlied to Congress, denying and covering up the targeting of tea party and conservative groups before the inspector general’s May 2013 report.
Mr. Shulman told the Ways and Means Committee in March 2012 that there was no targeting of conservative groups. Congressional investigations, the Issa committee report notes, established that at the time of his denial Mr. Schulman knew there was “a backlog of applications, delays in processing, and the use of inappropriate development questions.”
In the early months of 2012, Ms. Lerner made multiple false statements to Congress. In personal meetings, telephone interviews and written communications with congressional investigators, Ms. Lerner denied there were any changes in the criteria for evaluating applications for exempt status. She stated, falsely, that the intrusive demands from her agency for proprietary information from grass-roots organizations were “ordinary”—a characterization the inspector general’s report specifically rebutted.
Ms. Lerner also told Congress that “nothing had changed” about the way her unit handled such applications. But at the very time she said that, the IRS, including Ms. Lerner, had already identified seven types of information that it had inappropriately demanded from conservative groups between 2010 and 2013. These included donor lists, transcripts of speeches by public officials to meetings, and lists of groups to whom leaders made presentations.
Between May 2012 and May 2013, Mr. Miller testified before Congress on at least six occasions, first as deputy IRS commissioner, then as acting commissioner. He withheld information from Congress each time about the targeting. In a November 2013 interview with congressional investigators—well after the targeting had been documented in the inspector general’s report—Mr. Miller admitted that he became aware of possible IRS misconduct in February 2012. Read the rest of this entry »
Ben Kamisar reports: Capitol Police officers misplaced their loaded guns in plain sight on at least three separate occasions, including once when a small child found the weapon, according to a Roll Call analysis of a Capitol Police Board report.
“The Department takes very seriously all breaches of Department rules and has established policies that address such matters.”
— Lt. Kimberly Schneider, a Capitol Police spokeswoman
One officer assigned to protect Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) left his gun in a toilet seat cover holder in a bathroom stall in the Capitol Visitor Center in January, according to the paper.
Another assigned to the detail of Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) left a firearm in the bathroom of the Speaker’s suite, where a 7- or 8-year-old visiting child discovered the gun. The Glock pistol left by Boehner’s detail does not have a traditional locking mechanism and could still be fired when left out, Roll Call reported.
“Each disciplinary matter is thoroughly investigated and reviewed, employees are held accountable for their conduct, and they are provided due process in adjudicating these matters. Depending on the nature and seriousness of the violation, an employee’s record, and other required considerations, an appropriate penalty is applied, up to and including termination of employment.”
A janitor found the third pistol out in the Capitol Police headquarters, according to the paper.
The report on the January incident reportedly shows that police brass recommended a six-day suspension without pay for the officer from McConnell’s detail as punishment, but Roll Call reports that the other two incidents are still under investigation.
“As a matter of policy, the Department does not routinely discuss internal personnel matters, in order to maintain the integrity of the Department.”
Boehner spokesman Michael Steel declined to comment on the incidents, referring questions to Capitol Police. Read the rest of this entry »
[VIDEO] House Committee: Two Secret Service Agents Shown Driving Through an Active Bomb Threat Scene After DrinkingPosted: March 24, 2015
Despite the Secret Service’s refusal to provide video of the incident, House Oversight Committee chairman Jason Chaffetz (R, Ut.) released an alternate video showing two agents driving through an active bomb threat scene after drinking, knocking over a barricade in the process.
“…Two agents suspected of being intoxicated drove through the scene, knocking over a protective barrel and passing their vehicle’s wheels within feet of the possible bomb…”
Chaffetz and his fellow lawmakers excoriated Secret Service head Joseph Clancy during a hearing on Tuesday, accusing him of trying to cover up embarrassing details of an incident that occurred outside the White House earlier this month.
On the evening of March 4, a woman dropped a package she claimed was a bomb near the White House and fled the scene. The Secret Service first bungled the response, treating it merely as a suspicious package instead of a verified bomb threat. Read the rest of this entry »
[VIDEO] SMIDGEN REPORT UPDATE: Politico Sat on Allegations Lois Lerner Had Prior History of Targeting ConservativesPosted: March 12, 2015
Politico is not the only news organization to ignore Salvi’s story
But a former Illinois lawmaker who said Politico contacted him repeatedly that year with questions regarding claims he was targeted by Lerner in the mid-1990s has been left wondering why the news group chose to ignore his documented dealings with the former federal official.
“I spent something like an hour and a half talking to Politico about this,” said Salvi, whose dealings with the FEC are well documented by the federal agency. “And I’m nowhere in the story. They had no intention of using anything I said.”
“I was shocked,” Al Salvi told the Washington Examiner‘s media desk, describing what he characterizes as several “lengthy” interviews with Politico reporter Rachael Bade.
Lerner went after his 1996 Senate campaign with a lawsuit totaling $1.1 million — an enforcement action that was eventually thrown out of court — when she was working at the Federal Election Commission, according to Salvi.
“Every interview I had, the first thing people would say is: Tell us about your investigation. People thought I was going to jail!”
— Al Salvi, whose dealings with the FEC are well documented by the federal agency.
“I spent something like an hour and a half talking to Politico about this,” said Salvi, whose dealings with the FEC are well documented by the federal agency. “And I’m nowhere in the story. They had no intention of using anything I said.”
With its Lerner profile, titled “Exclusive: Lois Lerner breaks silence,” Politico became the first news group to gain access to the embattled former bureaucrat, who resigned from the Internal Revenue Service after bombshell revelations in 2013 that the IRS had singled out Tea Party and other conservative nonprofits for exceptional scrutiny and slow-walking of applications for tax exemptions.
Lerner headed the tax agency’s exempt organizations division at the time.
In 1996, Salvi, a representative in the Illinois state house, ran for an open U.S. Senate seat against then-Rep. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. His campaign attracted powerful scrutiny from the Federal Election Commission’s enforcement division, creating a scandal that Salvi said cost him the race.
The FEC was responding to a complaint lodged by Gary LaPaille, the Democratic Party’s state chairman. And the commission’s enforcement division was headed at the time by none other than Lois Lerner.
On Oct. 22, 1996, Lerner’s FEC division found”reason to believe” Salvi misreported nearly $1.1 million in contributions and loans, the agency said in a court filing. Later, in an letter dated Oct. 29, 1996, addressed to Salvi’s legal representative at the time, Bobby Burchfield, which shows that Salvi did have some form of contact with Lerner, the FEC announced it had closed its file against the Republican candidate.
And although the FEC’s case was eventually dismissed that year on technical grounds, Salvi ended up losing to Durbin, who is now a powerful senator. Salvi continues to blame the FEC scrutiny and the negative press it brought his campaign for souring voters in the Prairie State.
“Every interview I had, the first thing people would say is: Tell us about your investigation,” Salvi told the Examiner. “People thought I was going to jail!”
Later, after losing his Senate bid, Salvi announced he would run for Illinois secretary of state. But the charges of financial wrongdoing continued to dog Salvi, even after he secured the nomination of the state’s Republican Party. Read the rest of this entry »
Jason Leopold writes: Republican lawmakers are not pleased with the FCC‘s proposed new open Internet rules — set to be publicly released next Thursday — that call for aggressively regulating broadband providers like a utility. And they want to know how the FCC came up with them.
Congressman Jason Chaffetz, the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, will chair a hearing Wednesday about whether the White House improperly influenced the independent agency and pressured its chairman, Tom Wheeler, to develop a net neutrality plan that mirrored recommendations President Barack Obama made last November. Obama had called on the FCC to classify broadband as a public utility and adopt open internet rules that would ensure that “neither the cable company nor the phone company will be able to act as a gatekeeper, restricting what you can do or see online.”
“There’s more than enough smoke here to warrant a further investigation. I think the FCC has to answer in totality what sort of interaction they had with the White House. If there’s nothing to hide, then provide all of those emails unredacted.”
The congressional hearing was initiated after Chaffetz reviewed heavily redacted emails and other documents VICE News obtained from the FCC two weeks ago in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request; the emails show White House officials and Wheeler communicating about net neutrality. VICE News sought comment from Chaffetz’s office about the email exchanges and shared the documents with him.
Wheeler unveiled details of the FCC’s new net neutrality guidelines in an op-ed published in Wired earlier this month. His decision to classify broadband as a utility surprised net neutrality advocates who believed Wheeler, a former lobbyist for telecom firms, would adopt the draft proposal the FCC approved last May that would have authorized broadband providers to create “fast lanes” for content companies willing to pay for the service.
Chaffetz’s suspicions about the White House’s influence over the FCC’s decision is based on a February 4 Wall Street Journal report that alleged two senior White House officials, David Edelman and Tom Power, held dozens of secret meetings with “online activists, Web startups, and traditional telecommunications companies” in an effort to build a case for net neutrality.
After the Journal story was published, Chaffetz and Senate Homeland Security Chairman Ron Johnson sent letters to Wheeler requesting a wide-range of documents including visitor logs and emails, and set a February 23 deadline for the FCC to produce the records.
“I am concerned that undue outside pressure may have led you to this decision,” Johnson wrote in his letter to Wheeler. “In particular, my concern is the apparent pressure exerted on you and your agency by the White House.”
“The White House is not an ‘agency.’ Does the FCC run emails from congresspeople or citizens outside of government by them before processing them for FOIA? I don’t think so. I think in this case they gave the White House a political privilege.”
— Nate Jones, a FOIA expert at George Washington University’s National Security Archive
The emails VICE News obtained from the FCC show that as far back as last May, when Wheeler released the FCC’s draft net neutrality proposal, Edelman, Power, and other White House officials were communicating with Wheeler and his senior staff about the plan. However, the emails are so heavily redacted that its unknown what was discussed or whether it rises to the level of “undue” influence. (The FCC cited a privacy exemption and the deliberative process privilege, which protects “inter-agency or intra-agency memorandums or letters” from disclosure, as the reasons for blacking out the emails.)
Since last year, the FCC has turned over to VICE News thousands of pages of heavily redacted records, It has withheld thousands of pages more about the agency’s internal discussions related to net neutrality.
In a letter dated February 9 included with the batch of White House emails, Kirk Burgee, the chief of staff for the Wireline Competition Bureau, one of seven FCC bureaus that advises the commission on policy related to wireline telecommunications, said the emails were redacted at the behest of the White House.
Although we have not completed the consultation process with the Department of State, we have completed the consultation process with NTIA [National Telecommunications and Information Administration] and the White House. As a result of that consultation, we are releasing an email exchange among Larry Strickling (Associate Administrator of NTIA), Tom Power (Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), White House), Ross David Edelman (OSTP), and Chairman Wheeler. These records have been redacted pursuant to FOIA exemptions 5 and 6 which are consistent with those recommended by NTIA and the White House. We are also releasing an email exchange between Tom Power and Chairman Wheeler (which includes an email exchange among FCC staff and Chairman Wheeler) and an email exchange between John Podesta and Chairman Wheeler (which includes an email exchange among Jeffrey Zients (Executive Office of the President (EOP), White House), Jason Furman (EOP, White House), and Tom Power). These documents also include redactions under Exemptions 5 and 6 consistent with those recommended by the White House.
Burgee’s letter footnoted two documents to justify the redactions: a January 29 email sent by associate White House counsel Nicholas McQuaid to Joanne Wall at the FCC’s office of general counsel; and a December 31, 2014 letter from Kathy D. Smith, chief counsel, NTIA, US Department of Commerce, to Elizabeth Lyle, the FCC’s assistant general counsel.
The FCC disclosed a copy of the letter Lyle signed and sent to McQuaid asking for guidance on whether any of the emails at issue should be released to VICE News and, if so, what should be redacted. The FCC also released an identical letter the agency sent to NTIA requesting redactions to documents.
An FCC spokesman told VICE News the Justice Department’s FOIA guidance, which “the Commission strictly adheres to,” “makes clear that the Commission should not unilaterally decide to release records that involve other agencies. Consistent with the guidance, the FCC always consults with other agencies on the sensitivity of a document before determining whether to disclose it.”
Nate Jones, a FOIA expert at George Washington University’s National Security Archive, said the FCC spokesperson’s interpretation of the federal FOIA guidelines is a “bit off.” Read the rest of this entry »
President Obama opened this week’s White House Conference on Violent Extremism with a speech about community-based counter-radicalization efforts, and his Administration is being roundly mocked for its refusal to use terms like “Muslim terrorism” or “Islamism.” The mockery is deserved. Foreign policy is not a Harry Potter tale of good versus He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. And war cannot be won against an enemy we refuse to describe except in meaningless generalities.
“Their version of jihad is gaining adherents precisely because it is motivated by an idea that challenges the values and beliefs of moderate Islam, the West and modernity. The free and non-fanatic world won’t win this deeper struggle if the Obama Administration refuses even to acknowledge its nature.”
But there is a deeper problem with the Administration’s semantic dodges. Al Qaeda, Islamic State, Boko Haram and other jihadist groups are waging more than a military conflict. They are also waging an increasingly successful ideological war for the soul of Islam and its 1.6 billion followers.
“Qutb argued that humans can choose only between Islam and jahilyya….No middle ground exists…All Muslims—as he defined them—therefore must take up arms in this fight. Any Muslim who rejects his ideas is just one more nonbeliever worthy of destruction.”
Their version of jihad is gaining adherents precisely because it is motivated by an idea that challenges the values and beliefs of moderate Islam, the West and modernity. The free and non-fanatic world won’t win this deeper struggle if the Obama Administration refuses even to acknowledge its nature.
[Also see – What Isis Really Wants — The Atlantic]
“Communist ideology lost its appeal when it was seen to fail against the prosperity and freedom of the West. Islamic State will lose its allure when it is defeated and humiliated in the arena it cares about most, which is the battlefield.”
The 9/11 Commission Report put this front and center. Its second chapter, “The Foundation of the New Terrorism,” traces what it calls “ Bin Ladin ’s Appeal in the Islamic World.” It discusses the late al Qaeda leader’s faith in “a return to observance of the literal teachings of the Qur’an and the Hadith.” It underscores bin Laden’s reliance on Muslim theologians, from Ibn Taimiyyah in the 14th century to Sayyid Qutb in the 20th. And it explains how bin Laden turned Islam into a licence for murder. Read the rest of this entry »
Panel to Investigate Whether White House Improperly Influenced Agency on Broadband Rules
WASHINGTON — Gautham Nagesh and Siobhan Hughes report: A House oversight committee on Friday said it was launching an investigation into whether the White House improperly influenced the Federal Communications Commission on its new rules for how broadband providers treat traffic on their networks.
“The White House needs to get its hands off the FCC.”
— Rep. Fred Upton
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R., Utah), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, wrote to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler on Friday demanding all documents and communications between the FCC and the White House or other executive-branch agencies on the issue, along with all internal discussion at the FCC.
Mr. Wheeler on Wednesday made public the outlines of a proposal that would ban broadband providers from blocking, slowing down, or speeding up certain websites in exchange for payment.
Here is President Obama’s 332-page plan to regulate the Internet. I wish the public could see what’s inside. pic.twitter.com/bwwAsk8ZiB
— Ajit Pai (@AjitPaiFCC) February 6, 2015
The plan would use strong utility-like rules to regulate broadband companies, an approach largely in line with President Barack Obama ’s call in November for the “strongest possible rules” to protect net neutrality—the principle that all Internet traffic should be treated equally.
To implement those rules, Mr. Wheeler proposed reclassifying broadband from a lightly regulated information service to a more strictly overseen telecommunications service. Advocates of such an approach say that without such rules, broadband companies could charge tolls to websites for their fastest speeds, putting startups and smaller websites at a disadvantage.
Mr. Wheeler had previously laid out proposals to his fellow commissioners that wouldn’t have used the public-utility route. Then Mr. Obama made his statement in November, one of a series of events outlined in a Wall Street Journal article Thursday that appeared to leave Mr. Wheeler little choice but to go with the stronger rules.
“[R]eports indicate that views expressed by the White House potentially had an improper influence on the development of the draft Open Internet Order circulated internally at the Commission on February 5, 2015,” Mr. Chaffetz wrote.
Neither the White House nor the FCC responded to requests for comment.
Earlier on Friday, FCC Special Counsel Gigi Sohn rejected the notion that the president’s statement forced Mr. Wheeler’s hand.
“I think what the president’s statement did was rather than force the chairman’s hand was give him cover to do something that he already was thinking about doing,” Ms. Sohn said during an interview on C-Span.
In his letter, Mr. Chaffetz said he is particularly interested in “how the FCC communicated with the White House and other Executive Branch agencies.”
He also requested a briefing on the issue within two weeks. The commission plans to vote on the proposal Feb. 26. Read the rest of this entry »
“Would you agree to supplement your Exhibit B, so that we would have . . . your state revenue that you would’ve also received, since ultimately it’s Affordable Care Act-related?”
Fresh from The Corner, Brendan Bordelon reports: Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber repeatedly refused to answer how much money the government paid him for advice on crafting and explaining the Affordable Care Act — prompting incredulous responses from Republican lawmakers, who reminded the professor he was under oath.
“I’m sure my counsel would be happy to take that up with you.”
— Jonathan Gruber
GOP Oversight chairman Darrel Issa informed Gruber that due to a misfiled form, the committee did not receive the complete compensation data for his work on Obamacare.
“Actually I was asking would you agree to provide it.”
— Oversight chairman Darrel Issa
“Why doesn’t he just tell us? How much money did you get from the state taxpayers and the federal taxpayers? He’s under oath, why doesn’t he tell us how much he got paid by the taxpayers? We don’t have to wait for him to send something to us, he should just be able to tell us.”
— Ohio Republican Jim Jordan
“As I said, the committee could take that up with my counsel.”
— Jonathan Gruber
Brendan Bordelon writes: Jonathan Gruber, the MIT professor and Obamacare architect behind a series of revealing and offensive comments on the health-care law, has agreed to testify before the House Oversight Committee next month.
Gruber became notorious earlier this month after a series of videos surfaced showing him explaining how Obamacare was deliberately designed to be deceptive — and belittling the intelligence of American voters in the process. Read the rest of this entry »
[VIDEO] ‘Wish to God You Protected the White House Like You’re Protecting Your Reputation Here Today’Posted: September 30, 2014
“I don’t think the Secret Service is taking their duty to protect the American president and his family at the White House very seriously. That’s exactly my point.”
From The Corner:
Representative Stephen Lynch (D., Mass.) could scarcely contain his scorn for Secret Service director Julia Pierson’s evasive testimony before the House Oversight Committee on Tuesday, saying “I wish to God you protected the White House like you’re protecting your reputation here today.”
“I wish you spent that time and that effort to protect the American president, and his family, like I’m hearing people covering for the lapses of the Secret Service on these several occasions. I really do.”
The Massachusetts lawmaker upbraided Pierson for her agency’s inability to stop one man, armed only with a knife, from jumping a fence and penetrating deep into the White House earlier this month. And he found her repeated justifications for the breach inexcusable.
“I have very low confidence in the Secret Service under your leadership,” he added. “I have to say that.”
“I’ve listened to your testimony very deliberately here this morning,” he said, Read the rest of this entry »
[VIDEO] Noted Constitutional Expert Eleanor Holmes Norton Schools Congress: ‘You DON’T Have a Right to Know Everything’ Government Does!Posted: July 26, 2014
OUT: Government Transparency. IN: Government Secrecy, and proud of it! Oversight is not cool, my friend.
Washington, D.C.’s non-voting congressional Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton told her House colleagues on Friday that other branches of government do not necessarily have a right to know what the White House does in private. The remarks came during a Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing, as the Democratic official railed against Republicans for ignoring a White House assertion that Office of Political Strategy and Outreach director David Simas cannot be subpoenaed to appear before Congress.
“You don’t have a right to know everything in a separation-of-powers government. That is the difference between a parliamentary government and a separation-of-powers government.”
Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., noted he was not alleging any wrongdoing by Simas, but there was a history of violations involving that particular office in prior administrations that justified requesting his testimony. Read the rest of this entry »
The head of the IRS confirmed Wednesday that investigators looking into missing emails from ex-agency official Lois Lerner have found and are reviewing “backup tapes” — despite earlier IRS claims that the tapes had been recycled.
“It is unbelievable that we cannot get a simple, straight answer from the IRS about this hard drive.”
— House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, testifying before a House oversight subcommittee, stressed that he does not know “how they found them” or “whether there’s anything on them or not.” But he said the inspector general’s office advised him the investigators are reviewing tapes to see if they contain any “recoverable” material.
The revelation is significant because the IRS claimed, when the agency first told Congress about the missing emails, that backup tapes “no longer exist because they have been recycled.”
It is unclear whether the tapes in IG custody contain any Lerner emails, but Koskinen said investigators are now checking. Read the rest of this entry »
WASHINGTON (AP/ Breitbart) reports: The Justice Department is investigating the circumstances behind the disappearance of emails from a former senior Internal Revenue Service official, part of a broader criminal inquiry into whether the agency had targeted conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, according to congressional testimony released Wednesday.
In a statement to be delivered to a congressional committee on Thursday, Deputy Attorney General James Cole says investigators are looking into emails that went missing from the computer of Lois Lerner.
Cole was to appear before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which has been investigating the matter. He declined to provide additional information about the investigation, according to prepared remarks issued ahead of his appearance.
The IRS has said it lost the emails in 2011 when Lerner’s computer crashed. At the time, Lerner headed the IRS division that processes applications for tax-exempt status. Read the rest of this entry »
SMIDGEN REPORT: Tweets from FEC Employee who Admitted to Violating Hatch Act Prior to Hard Drive Being RecycledPosted: July 15, 2014
— Darrell Issa (@DarrellIssa) July 15, 2014
[VIDEO] Republican Congressman: Lerner Should Have Known She Was Obliged by Law to Preserve Her E-mailsPosted: June 24, 2014
For NRO, Molly Wharton writes: The IRS “did not follow the law” by not notifying the National Archives and Records Administration when they lost Lois Lerner’s e-mails, U.S. Archivist David Ferriero said.
During an IRS investigation hearing on Tuesday morning, Representative Tim Walberg (R., Mich.) questioned Ferriero about whether the IRS broke the Federal Records Act, which requires that if agencies become aware of unauthorized destruction of federal records, they report the incident to the archives…(read more) National Review Online
‘We have a problem with you, and you have a problem maintaining your credibility’: House Republicans Grill IRS Commissioner as they Subpoena White House LawyerPosted: June 23, 2014
For Mail Online, David Martosko reports: Republicans dropped a hammer on IRS Commissioner John Koskinen during a testy hearing covering the disappearance of emails tied to the agency’s tea party targeting scandal.
“You worked to cover up the fact they were missing and only came forward to fess up on a Friday afternoon after you had been caught red-handed.”
The emails, covering the period January 2009 to April 2011, belonged to embattled former official Lois Lerner and could shed light on whether an expansive scheme to single out conservative groups for special scrutiny was guided by members of Congress or administration officials outside the IRS.
‘The committee requested all of Lois Lerner’s emails over a year ago,’ said House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa. ‘And we subpoenaed the emails in August 2013 and again in February 2014. … You worked to cover up the fact they were missing and only came forward to fess up on a Friday afternoon after you had been caught red-handed.’
‘You personally did not cause the targeting,’ he told Koskinen, referring to the tea party scandal. ‘You personally did not destroy the emails. But by your actions and your deception, you now own this scandal.’
‘We have a problem with you,’ Issa sniped, ‘and you have a problem maintaining your credibility.’
Monday’s unusual evening hearing came as the result of a subpoena, and will continue Tuesday morning with a command performance from another Obama administration official.
Issa subpoenaed White House lawyer Jennifer O’Connor on Monday afternoon. He had invited her on Thursday to testify during the Tuesday session, but on Monday afternoon White House Counsel W. Neil Egglestonwrote Issa to say his underling would not appear.
Before O’Connor’s promotion to the White House Counsel’s office, she was counsel to then-Acting IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel.
Just ten days ago the IRS informed congressional investigators that a hard drive crash had destroyed 28 months of emails to and from Lerner, who led the IRS’s office in charge of vetting and policing tax-exempt nonprofit groups. Read the rest of this entry »
“The e-mail shows the White House had hurried to settle on a false narrative — one at odds with the conclusions reached by those on the ground — before Americans were even out of harm’s way or the intelligence community had made an impartial examination of available evidence.”
— Darrell Issa
For ABC News, John Karl reports: A still-classified State Department e-mail says that one of the first responses from the White House to the Benghazi attack was to contact YouTube to warn of the “ramifications” of allowing the posting of an anti-Islamic video, according to Rep. Darrell Issa, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
The memo suggests that even as the attack was still underway — and before the CIA began the process of compiling talking points on its analysis of what happened — the White House believed it was in retaliation for a controversial video.
The subject line of the e-mail, which was sent at 9:11 p.m. Eastern Time on the night of the attack, is “Update on Response to actions – Libya.” The was written hours before the attack was over. Read the rest of this entry »
Giving it to you straight, is Mediaite:
The House of Representatives voted 231-187 tonight to hold former IRS official Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress, weeks after the House Oversight Committee voted to bring the contempt charge to the House floor. The point of contention is whether Lerner waived her Fifth Amendment rights during hearings into IRS political targeting. In addition to the contempt charge, last month the House Ways and Means Committee voted to refer Lerner to the Justice Department for a possible investigation into criminal charges.
Written by Jeremy W. Peters, it’s crafted to be the least upsetting to their Tea-Party hating readers. It’s meant to reassure them that it’s not a real hearing, about real crimes, it’s 100% political, lead by mean, witch-hunting, conspiracy-deranged Republicans, against innocent, law-abiding, hard-working servants of the people. Thank goodness it’s not about Lois Lerner’s accountability, or abuses against citizens by the IRS.
It includes this photo of an “angry-looking” Republican white male:
Here’s some choice quotes:
“Democrats invoked former Senator Joseph R. McCarthy and delusions of widespread conspiracy.”
EPA Employees Not Fired For Watching Pornography, Theft.
“This individual spent four consecutive hours on a site called ‘sadism is beautiful’. You are running an organization from which no one can get fired.”
— Rep. Darrell Issa
For The Daily Caller, Michael Bastasch writes: The Environmental Protection Agency has not been firing employees for watching pornography and falsifying federal documents, according to California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa.
“How much pornography would it take for an EPA employee to lose his job?”
Issa asked EPA officials, including the agency’s second-in-command, testifying before the House Oversight Committee. Issa chairs the committee.
Issa was pressing EPA officials to answer his question on whether or not falsifying documents is a crime. It is a crime, but Issa wanted an answer from the panelists. The EPA officials testifying before the House Oversight Committee struggled to answer Issa’s questions about agency employees falsifying federal documents by saying they are working while they were not.
An EPA employee has been viewing pornography while at work, and has even received performance awards for his time at the agency. The employee was even watching porn when inspector general agents visited his office. The employee had 7,000 porn files on his computer and had been watching porn for two to six hours per day since 2010. This employee still works at the EPA. Read the rest of this entry »
‘It’s Not Science, it’s a Cheap Chinese Restaurant’: EPA Accused of Blocking Independent InvestigationsPosted: May 6, 2014
Dina Cappiello reports: A unit run by President Barack Obama’s political staff inside the Environmental Protection Agency operates illegally as a “rogue law enforcement agency” that has blocked independent investigations by the EPA’s inspector general for years, a top investigator told Congress.
“Under the heavy cloak of ‘national security,’ the Office of Homeland Security has repeatedly rebuffed and refused to cooperate with the OIG’s ongoing requests for information or cooperation.”
— Assistant EPA inspector general for investigations Patrick Sullivan
The assistant EPA inspector general for investigations, Patrick Sullivan, was expected to testify Wednesday before a House oversight committee about the activities of the EPA’s little-known Office of Homeland Security.
Not directly related, but the title is too good to pass up. Good wisecrackery from Sarah Hoyt:
NOT SCIENCE. IT’S A CHEAP CHINESE RESTAURANT: Let’s Call It ‘Climate Disruption,’ White House Science Adviser Suggests (Again). Like
liberalism, socialism, progressivism, this things keeps changing names when people catch on. Also, and for the record “climate disruption” was something all my New Agey friends talked about back in the nineties. If Al Gore starts chanting Age of Aquarius, I’m going to really freak out.
The office of about 10 employees is overseen by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy’s office, and the inspector general’s office is accusing it of impeding its independent investigations into employee misconduct, computer security and external threats, including compelling employees involved in cases to sign non-disclosure agreements. Read the rest of this entry »
For National Review Online, Eliana Johnson reports: The House Oversight Committee will vote next Thursday on whether to hold former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress, sources say.
(read the whole thing here, but Eliana added the following update)
UPDATE: Issa has announced the hearing, saying in a statement that “Ms. Lerner’s involvement in wrongdoing and refusal to meet her legal obligations has left the Committee with no alternative but to consider a contempt finding.”
A committee aide tells National Review Online the panel will “make an announcement on the contempt process for Lois Lerner sometime today,” and a GOP congressman confirms that committee chairman Darrell Issa has indicated the vote will take place “next week.”
Lerner has twice declined to answer questions from lawmakers about her role in the targeting of right-leaning groups. At a June hearing, the panel determined in a party-line vote that she had waived her Fifth Amendment rights by making an opening statement declaring her innocence when she appeared at hearing in May. “I have not done anything wrong,” Lerner said at the time. “I have not broken any laws. I have not violated any IRS rules or regulations, and I have not provided false information to this or any other congressional committee.”
Rep. Darrell Issa has subpoenaed the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for information about what he calls a “dangerously mismanaged” program, which originally was launched to get crime guns off the street.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which Issa chairs, has been looking into complaints about the program for months. Under the operation, ATF agents set up storefronts in multiple cities to try and entice criminals to sell their crime guns, unwittingly, to the government so they could be traced. But their tactics and missteps, including using mentally disabled people, drew criticism.
John D. McKinnon writes: A new report by House Republicans concludes that former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner engaged in wide-ranging, politically motivated efforts to hamper conservatives’ use of tax-exempt organizations.
“Can you please send me a copy of the Crossroads [GPS] application? Lois wants Judy to take a look at it so she can summarize the issues for Lois…”
— IRS email from mid-2011
The report by Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said Ms. Lerner “believed the political participation of tax-exempt organizations harmed Democratic candidates, she believed something needed to be done, and she directed action from her unit at the IRS.”
“… it’s absolutely un-American.”
Kurt Bardella is a former Senior Advisor and Spokesperson for the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and is the President of Endeavor Strategic Communications, a PR-firm that represents Issa for Congress.
“You cannot have a one-sided investigation,” shouted Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the Ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. “There is something absolutely wrong with that. And it’s absolutely un-American.”
His tirade–and it should be noted that while Cummings was yelling Issa remained composed and calm–was an instant made-for-YouTube moment, and I suspect that was exactly the point.
If anything, this moment personifies the entire reason why Cummings is the ranking member today.
People forget that the panel’s former chairman, Edolphus “Ed” Towns (D-NY), was in-line to be the leading Democrat on the Committee, but the Democratic Leadership pushed him out and Cummings was instilled (over the more senior Carolyn Maloney) for the sole purpose of obstructing the investigations led by incoming Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA).