White House

Watchdog group sues the “most transparent administration in history” for allowing the White House to obstruct document release

President Barack Obama’s White House has interfered with Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests over the release of communications with a dozen federal agencies, according to a lawsuit filed on Monday by Cause of Action, a government watchdog organization.

Cause of Action has sued ten cabinet agencies — including the Departments of Justice, Treasury, and Health and Human Services — the Internal Revenue Service, and the White House Office of Management and Budget for allowing the White House to influence the FOIA process and delay response to document requests.

“Accountable and transparent government does not involve instructing agencies to send politically sensitive records to the White House for review,” said Dan Epstein, executive director of Cause of Action, in a press release announcing the lawsuit. “The bureaucracy has violated the law by stonewalling the public’s access to documents for political reasons.”

“Cause of Action’s own investigation reveals that the White House is actually demanding access from agencies to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and Congressional document requests, as well as the documents subject to those requests, in a manner that may obstruct congressional oversight and violate the spirit of FOIA,” he added.

Obama interrupts his vacation to return to Washington for meetings on foreign and domestic crises

Barack Obama

President Barack Obama has finally figured out that the optics of a two-week vacation in Martha’s Vineyard while Ferguson, Missouri and parts of the Middle East are on fire may not sit well with the American public. So, he decided to interrupt his vacation to return to Washington:

In a rare move for him, the president planned a break in the middle of his Martha’s Vineyard vacation to return to Washington on Sunday night for unspecified meetings with Vice President Joe Biden and other advisers.

The White House has been cagey about why the president needs to be back in Washington for those discussions.

Part of the decision appears aimed at countering criticism that Obama is spending two weeks on a resort island in the midst of so many foreign and domestic crises.

Yet those crises turned the first week of Obama’s vacation into a working holiday. He made on-camera statements on U.S. military action in Iraq and the clashes between police and protesters in Ferguson, Missouri. He called foreign leaders to discuss the tensions between Ukraine and Russia, as well as between Israel and Hamas.
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Obama is scheduled to return to Martha’s Vineyard on Tuesday and stay through next weekend.

Today in Liberty: Treasury Department halts Ex-Im deals with Russia, federal court grants D.C. a stay on gun rights ruling

“I am a libertarian with a small ‘l’ and a Republican with a capital ‘R’. And I am a Republican with a capital ‘R’ on grounds of expediency, not on principle.” — Milton Friedman

— Boehner dismisses Democrats’ impeachment “scam”: Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) says that the talk of impeachment is a “scam” being pushed by Democrats to boost their fundraising numbers and motivate their base. “This whole talk about impeachment is coming from the president’s own staff — and coming from Democrats on Capitol Hill. Why? Because they’re trying to rally their people to give money and show up in this year’s election,” said Boehner, according to the Washington Examiner. “We have no plans to impeach the president; we have no future plans. Listen, it’s all a scam started by Democrats at the White House.” Between Friday and Monday, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) sent out at least 19 fundraising emails (see them here and here) referencing either the lawsuit that Boehner plans to file against the White House or impeachment. The DCCC sent four more on Tuesday, including one with “ⓘⓜⓟⓔⓐⓒⓗⓜⓔⓝⓣ” in the subject line. The White House, however, says that it won’t discourage Democrats from fundraising off the completely unserious threat of impeachment.

Cronyism: White House advisor intervened to expand Obamacare’s health insurance bailout to limit dramatic premium increases

Barack Obama and Valerie Jarrett

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has uncovered correspondence between White House advisor Valerie Jarrett and a health insurance company executive after he gave a “heads-up” that the Obamacare bailout wouldn’t be enough to avoid the “unwelcome surprise” of higher than expected premium increases.

Chet Burrell, President and CEO of Care First Blue Cross Blue Shield, reached out to Jarrett on April 4 at 10:20 am to bring the issue to her attention. Katherine Branch, the White House advisor’s assistant, replied less than 30 minutes later to ask if he was available to talk to Jarrett later that afternoon.

Burrell and Jarrett apparently had that little chat. He followed up the next day with a summary of the issue he talked with her about. The document attached in the email expressed concern over the budget neutrality of Obamacare’s “risk corridor” program, known to many as the insurer “bailout.”

The risk corridor program guarantees payments from the from the federal government to insurers if the risk pool isn’t properly balanced with the young and healthy people who are intended to offset the costs of sick and unhealthy consumers. The payments come from a fund into which insurers contribute, and it was originally scored as budget-neutral, meaning that there wouldn’t be any cost to taxpayers.

Given the unlikelihood of many insurers contributing to the program due to unbalanced risk pools, Burrell suggested that insurance premiums would rise, and spark a negative public reaction, unless the administration was willing to “clarify” (read: provide more funding) the bailout rule.

Stop the NSA: There is a new push in Congress to end the NSA’s unconstitutional domestic surveillance programs

There may finally be a passable piece of legislation in Congress to end the National Service Agency’s bulk metadata collection program as well as add some much-needed oversight to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

After working with the White House on compromise language, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) rolled out legislation — a new USA FREEDOM Act — today that would protect Americans’ civil liberties from the NSA’s spying programs:

Leahy’s bill would prevent the possibility of that broad collection by requiring agents use specific terms in their searches.

It also requires the government to disclose the number of people caught up in its searches, declare how many of them were Americans and provides more ways for tech companies to report the number of government requests for information they receive, which firms have said is critical to restoring people’s trust in their products.

Finally, Leahy’s bill would also add a panel of special civil liberties advocates to the secretive court overseeing intelligence operations, which currently only hears arguments from the government.

In announcing the bill, Leahy trumpeted support from tech companies including Apple and Google, which have teamed up with other tech giants in the Reform Government Surveillance coalition, as well as privacy groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Democracy and Technology.

Today in Liberty: Obama may take more unilateral action on immigration, Medicare and Social Security are still very, very broken

“A society that puts equality before freedom will get neither. A society that puts freedom before equality will get a high degree of both.” — Milton Friedman

Hypocrites: House Democrats only want transparency and government oversight when a Republican is in the White House

Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee aren’t even trying anymore to pretend like they care about the White House’s lack of transparency. They’ve long defended the Obama administration from scandals, often appearing like they don’t care that the White House tried sell a lie to Americans about Benghazi or that the IRS targeted organizations simply because of their political views.

But a lesser controversy brought out a revealing admission from a couple of Democrats on the House’s primary oversight committee.

During a Friday hearing on alleged violations of the Hatch Act by the White House Office of Political Strategy and Outreach, Delegate Eleanor Norton Holmes (D-DC) blasted her Republican colleagues on the committee for trying to get to the bottom of this latest controversy.

Holmes is upset that Republicans have subpoenaed David Simas, director the White House Office of Political Strategy and Outreach, to testify over the use of a taxpayer-funded government office for partisan political activity. The White House, however, has refused to comply, absurdly and arrogantly claiming executive privilege. Simas has missed the two recent Oversight hearings on the matter.

“I agree that there are circumstances where you don’t need wrongdoing, but you need a predicate for a subpoena. You need more than a fishing expedition,” Norton complained. “You don’t have a right to know everything in a separation of powers government, my friend. That is the difference between a parliamentary government and a separation of powers government.”

Desperation: The White House and Democrats really want you to think House Republicans are going to impeach Barack Obama

Let’s just go ahead and get this out of the way right now: House Republicans are not going to make a serious effort to impeach President Barack Obama. Sure, there are some prominent conservatives, including Sarah Palin, and a handful of House Republicans who’ve floated the idea. But it’s just not going to happen.

The White House and senior Democrats, however, are talking about impeachment like it’s a “thing.” White House advisor Dan Pfeiffer told reporters on Friday at House Republicans are opening the door to impeachment. “I think Speaker Boehner, by going down the path of this lawsuit, has opened the door to Republicans possibly considering impeachment in the future,” said Pfeiffer. “I would not discount that possibility.”

The “I” word was used again later in the day by White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest. Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY), the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee told Fox News Sunday that House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) “made it clear that impeachment is absolutely on the table for House Republicans.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) really wanted to talk about the House lawsuit and possibility of impeachment on CNN. After the end of an appearance on State of the Union on foreign policy crises around the globe, Pelosi had a sad because she didn’t get a chance to talk about the false narrative Democrats are trying to set.

Obama must take a tougher stand against Russia, and he can do that by ending Ex-Im’s deals with Vladimir Putin’s cronies

With tensions boiling over in Ukraine as Vladimir Putin’s regime sends more weapons to separatists, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) is calling on President Barack Obama to stop the Export-Import Bank from doing deals with Russian businesses.

Hensarling says that Russia “bears responsibility” for the conflict in Ukraine as well as the “atrocity of the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17,” in which 298 people lost their lives. The Texas Republican noted that Putin’s regime “is supplying the separatists with advanced weapons and encouraging their attacks on aircraft and on the people of Ukraine.”

“Russia’s actions are in direct conflict with our national interests,” Hensarling wrote in a letter to President Obama. “Yet, still, the Export-Import Bank remains open for business in Russia. In fact, total authorizations for deals between Ex-Im and Russia have increased nine-fold since you took office.”

The House Financial Services Committee recently noted that Ex-Im increased funding for Russian projects by 177 percent in FY 2013, translating to a $580 million commitment, a record level. These loans and subsidies are backed by American taxpayers.

Here’s the Republican presidential contender who could be a complete nightmare for Democrats

Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-KY) outreach efforts to millennials and minorities as well as his focus on issues that aren’t typical of Republican politicians have not gone unnoticed by one of President Barack Obama’s closest political strategists.

White House advisor Dan Pfeiffer says that Paul, who is actively building up a campaign-like structure in early primary states, may be the biggest threat to Democrats’ hopes to keep the presidency in 2016:

Speaking to reporters, counselor to the president Dan Pfeiffer said the Kentucky Republican is “one of the most intriguing candidates” in the field because of his appeal to younger voters of both parties.

“He’s the only Republican I think who has articulated a message that is potentially appealing to younger Americans,” Pfeiffer said at a breakfast organized by the Christian Science Monitor. “Every other Republican running is basically just Romney-lite when it comes to younger Americans.” Rand has made reaching out to non-traditional voters a signature component of his political agenda, most recently delivering a speech Friday to the National Urban League.

Pfeiffer also noted that Paul faces a tough Republican primary, a preview of which has been offered by way of attacks from his likely opponents, including Texas Gov. Rick Perry and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who are trying weaken him before the 2016 horserace begins.


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