During last week’s House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) grilled former IRS Commission Doug Shulman about the targeting of Tea Party and conservative groups that happened on his watch.
Jordan noted that 132 members of Congress asked Shulman about targeting of conservative groups and that 42 major news stories had been written about that same subject. But after getting evasive and deflective answers from Shulman, Jordan moved onto another matter.
He was particularly interested in the 118 trips that Shulman made to the White House in between 2010 and 2011. Shulman claimed that the visits were for budgetary and policy issues, and denied that he ever discussed the targeting of these groups during his trips to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
“One hundred and eighteen times you were at the White House, 132 Members of Congress contact you about this information, 42 major news stories about this very subject and you told Congress a year ago, ‘I can give you assurances nothing is going on, everything is wonderful, we’re not targeting conservative groups,” Jordan told Shulman, who was testifying under oath. “That’s why the American people are like, ‘This is unbelievable.’”
Jordan pressed him once again. “One hundred and eighteen visits, it didn’t come up in a causal conversation after 132 members of Congress contacted you about it, are you sure you didn’t bring it up with anybody at the White House?” the Ohio Republican asked.
“Not to my memory,” replied Shulman with a smug laugh, “and it wouldn’t be appropriate, so I certainly believe I did not have any conversations.”
Much is being made about Bob Dole’s appearance this weekend on Fox News Sunday. During interview, the former Senator from Kansas and 1996 Republican Party presidential nominee criticized his party for its lack of ideas and claimed that he or even Ronald Reagan couldn’t make it in today’s GOP:
National Republicans have shifted so drastically in the past decade that the party’s most vaunted figure - former President Ronald Reagan - would no longer find a home in the GOP, former Sen. Bob Dole claimed Sunday.
“Reagan couldn’t have made it,” Dole said, adding he too would also have faced challenges in today’s Republican Party.
Instead of operating day-to-day in a nonelection year, the national party should focus on broader plans to rehabilitate itself after the losses of 2012, the former Kansas lawmaker said.
“I think they ought to put a sign on the national committee doors that says ‘Closed for repairs’ until New Year’s Day next year. Spend that time going over ideas and positive agendas,” Dole, who was the Republican nominee for president in 1996, said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Dole lamented the lack of compromise in Washington and was critical of President Obama, telling Wallace that the Commander-in-Chief “lacks communication skills with his own party, let alone the Republican Party.” He added that President Obama hasn’t reached out enough to Congress, which is a familiar criticism. Dole also said that President Obama is “on the road too much,” though he did say he was a “good golfer.”
Ben Swann has been doing great investigative reporting on the IRS scandal. Just last week, he exposed the names of Cincinnati-based employees who were allegedly at the heart of agency’s targeting of Tea Party groups.
Swann, a journalist with Ohio-based Fox 19, has noted that Cindy Thomas, the Program Manager of the Tax-Exempt Division in Cincinnati, had direct oversight of each of the employees connected to the scandal. She signed off on the private information sent to ProPublica, a left-leaning advocacy organization. It also appears that she and Lois Lerner, who has refused to testify on the matter to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, are apparently very close, which raises more questions about how high up this scandal goes in the agency.
While she may have escaped questioning under oath to this point, Swann’s reporting on the matter could lead Thomas straight before Chairman Darrell Issa and his committee:
Congress may be out of session for the next couple weeks, but the IRS scandal that has plagued the Obama Administration isn’t going away. There is still a lot of concern about the targeting of Tea Party and conservative groups being expressed from both sides of the aisle, but the White House and most congressional Democrats are still pushing back against an independent investigation of the embattled agency.
But with polls showing increasing disapproval with the IRS and the scandal only deepening, more will need to be done to allay the concerns that are now being expressed by the American people. The agency knew that these groups were being targeted, even as members of Congress were asking questions, and choose to remain silent.
The initial claim about the IRS’s discrimination against Tea Party and conservative groups was that it was the product of low-level employees in the agency’s Cincinnati office acting on their own without any directive from higher up the chain of command. Some employees have challenged that notion, explaining that such invasive scrutiny would have come from higher-ranking officials.
While members of Congress are investigating the issue to find out why they weren’t notified when senior IRS officials learned of the discrimination and if the White House had anything to do with it, Ben Swann, an investigative reporter at Cincinnati-based Fox 19, has named the IRS employees involved in the scandal and the manager at the center of it all.
Swann followed up on this report on with another interesting aspect of the story that could lead to further questioning, this time under oath, of these Cincinnati-based IRS employees:
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, announced that he would recall Lois Lerner, the embattled director of the IRS’s Tax Exempt Division, to testify on the agency’s discrimination of Tea Party and conservative groups.
Lerner appeared before the committee on Wednesday, but invoked her Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate herself. But before doing so, Lerner made an opening statement in which she declared herself innocent of any wrong-doing. Issa believes that Lerner waived her rights with her opening statement:
Issa said Thursday he had concluded that Lerner waived her rights against self-incrimination when she invoked her Fifth Amendment rights at a Wednesday hearing.
Lerner, who runs an IRS division that oversees tax-exempt groups, defended her actions in an opening statement before invoking the Fifth, and Republicans say that meant she had waived her privileges against self-incrimination.
“After consulting with counsel, Chairman Issa has concluded that Ms. Lerner’s 5th Amendment assertion is no longer valid,” Ali Ahmad, a spokesman for Issa, said in a statement Thursday. “She remains under subpoena, the Committee is looking at recalling her for testimony.”
Issa recessed – rather than adjourned – Wednesday’s hearing, which keeps Lerner under the original subpoena.
It appears that Lois Lerner, the embattled director of the IRS’s Tax-Exempt Division, may have put herself in a bit of a pickle. Despite stating her intention to invoke her Fifth Amendment right in advance of the hearing, Lerner gave an opening statement in which she clearly stated that she had done nothing wrong.
“[M]embers of this committee have accused me of providing false information when I responded to questions about the IRS processing of applications for tax exemption,” Lerner told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Wednesday. “I have not done anything wrong. 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.”
“And while I would very much like to answer the committee’s questions today, I’ve been advised by my counsel to assert my Constitutional right not to testify or answer questions related to the subject matter of this hearing,” she added. “After very careful consideration, I’ve decided to follow my counsel’s advice, and not testify or answer any of the questions today. Because I’m asserting my right not to testify, I know that some people will assume that I’ve done something wrong. I have not.”
Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) believes that her opening statement, given before she invoked the Fifth Amendment, was tantamount to her waiving her right:
The Internal Revenue Service has given the Tea Party movement just the boost it needed to motivate the grassroots around the country. The movement that pundits had once declared dead is beginning to gain favorability in the aftermath of the scandal, according to a new CNN poll:
And according to a CNN/ORC International survey released Monday, it’s also boosted the favorable rating for the tea party movement. Thirty-seven percent of people questioned said they see the tea party in a favorable light, up nine percentage points from CNN’s March poll. But a plurality still view the movement unfavorably.
The 37% favorable rating for tea party is just one point shy of their all-time high in CNN polling, which they reached twice in 2010, during the heyday of the movement.
But according to the new poll, 45% of the public continues to hold an unfavorable view of the tea party, with just over one in ten saying they don’t have an opinion. The 45% unfavorable rating for the tea party is down five points from a CNN survey from last November.
The White House just can’t seem to get its story together on the IRS scandal that emerged nearly two weeks ago. While they initially acted as though they’d been blindsided by the admission that the IRS had targeted Tea Party and other conservative groups, Jay Carney admitted yesterday that the White House had conversations with the Treasury Department about the impending Inspector General report:
Just a day after telling reporters that chief of staff Denis McDonough and other senior White House staff learned of the situation nearly a month ago, press secretary Jay Carney revealed Tuesday that White House officials had consulted with the Treasury Department on how to make the findings public.
The conversations “had to do with the timing of the release of the information and the findings of the actual audit,” Carney said, and were led on the White House side by Mark Childress, a deputy chief of staff.
Carney said he hadn’t revealed more information about which officials were aware of the situation and when they were informed in previous briefings because he hadn’t been asked. “I gave you the information in response to the questions, and we have provided an enormous amount of information about the communication we’ve had — who learned what about this and when, the fact that the president was not informed,” he said.