The White House is trying to regain the upper hand after being knocked on the defensive over its response to deadly attacks in Benghazi, Libya, the seizure of journalists’ phone records in a Justice Department leak investigation, and the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups for special scrutiny.
Now, President Barack Obama’s closest advisers want to find a way to return attention to his top priorities, such as creating more jobs and reforming immigration laws, while continuing to show they are trying to get to the bottom of the controversies.
Wow. Taken in light of Obama’s IRS targeting conservatives, it appears that this administration is using the power of government to attack enemies and stifle the press.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors for The Associated Press in what the news cooperative’s top executive called a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into how news organizations gather the news.
The records obtained by the Justice Department listed outgoing calls for the work and personal phone numbers of individual reporters, for general AP office numbers in New York, Washington and Hartford, Conn., and for the main number for the AP in the House of Representatives press gallery, according to attorneys for the AP. It was not clear if the records also included incoming calls or the duration of the calls.
In all, the government seized the records for more than 20 separate telephone lines assigned to AP and its journalists in April and May of 2012. The exact number of journalists who used the phone lines during that period is unknown, but more than a hundred journalists work in the offices where phone records were targeted, on a wide array of stories about government and other matters.
Wow. When moderate Collins is going this harsh, you know you’ve stepped in it.
Lawmakers said President Barack Obama personally should apologize for targeting tea party organizations and they challenged the tax agency’s blaming of low-level workers.
“I just don’t buy that this was a couple of rogue IRS employees,” said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine. “After all, groups with ‘progressive’ in their names were not targeted similarly.”
If it were just a small number of employees, she said, “then you would think that the high-level IRS supervisors would have rushed to make this public, fired the employees involved, apologized to the American people and informed Congress. None of that happened in a timely way.”
And, of course, she’s absolutely right.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Senior Internal Revenue Service officials knew agents were targeting tea party groups as early as 2011, according to a draft of an inspector general’s report obtained by The Associated Press that seemingly contradicts public statements by the IRS commissioner.
The IRS apologized Friday for what it acknowledged was “inappropriate” targeting of conservative political groups during the 2012 election to see if they were violating their tax-exempt status. The agency blamed low-level employees, saying no high-level officials were aware.
But on June 29, 2011, Lois G. Lerner, who heads the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt organizations, learned at a meeting that groups were being targeted, according to the watchdog’s report. At the meeting, she was told that groups with “Tea Party,” ‘‘Patriot” or “9/12 Project” in their names were being flagged for additional and often burdensome scrutiny, the report says.
WASHINGTON (AP)—The government has sold another piece of its stake in General Motors Co.
The Treasury Department said Friday in its April report to Congress that so far this year it has sold 58.4 million shares of GM stock and earned net proceeds of $1.6 billion.
At the end of April, Treasury had recovered about $30.7 billion of the $49.5 billion bailout it gave the Detroit automaker. That means that taxpayers are still $18.8 billion in the hole.
GM stock sold in April in a range of $27.52 to $30.84 per share. For the government to break even on its investment, the remaining stock would have to sell for more than double the April high.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has gone, hat in hand, to health industry officials, asking them to make large financial donations to help with the effort to implement President Obama’s landmark health-care law, two people familiar with the outreach said.
Her unusual fundraising push comes after Congress repeatedly rejected the Obama administration’s requests for additional funds to set up the Affordable Care Act, leaving HHS to implement the president’s signature legislative accomplishment on what officials have described as a shoestring budget.
Over the past three months, Sebelius has made multiple phone calls to health industry executives, community organizations and church groups and asked that they contribute whatever they can to nonprofit groups that are working to enroll uninsured Americans and increase awareness of the law, according to an HHS official and an industry person familiar with the secretary’s activities. Both spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk openly about private discussions.
Heh. The fact that this ever happened shows a deep disrespect for political freedom within the IRS.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Internal Revenue Service inappropriately flagged conservative political groups for additional reviews during the 2012 election to see if they were violating their tax-exempt status, a top IRS official said Friday.
Organizations were singled out because they included the words “tea party” or “patriot” in their applications for tax-exempt status, said Lois Lerner, who heads the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt groups.
In some cases, groups were asked for their list of donors, which violates IRS policy in most cases, she said.
“That was wrong. That was absolutely incorrect, it was insensitive and it was inappropriate. That’s not how we go about selecting cases for further review,” Lerner said at a conference sponsored by the American Bar Association.
“The IRS would like to apologize for that,” she added.
When it became clear last fall that the CIA’s now discredited Benghazi talking points were flawed, the White House said repeatedly the documents were put together almost entirely by the intelligence community, but White House documents reviewed by Congress suggest a different story.
ABC News has obtained 12 different versions of the talking points that show they were extensively edited as they evolved from the drafts first written entirely by the CIA to the final version distributed to Congress and to U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice before she appeared on five talk shows the Sunday after that attack.
White House emails reviewed by ABC News suggest the edits were made with extensive input from the State Department. The edits included requests from the State Department that references to the Al Qaeda-affiliated group Ansar al-Sharia be deleted as well references to CIA warnings about terrorist threats in Benghazi in the months preceding the attack.
I’ll be on WPR’s Week In Review tomorrow morning from 8 to 9. I’ll be discussing the news of the week with Darryl Mayfield.
“Permission structure” wasn’t the oddest thing to come out of President Barack Obama’s mouth this week. That honor goes to Obama’s assurance that NBA veteran Jason Collins, having come out as gay, “can bang with Shaq,” which had West Wing aides wincing. Still, the jokes flew. Is that “structure” like having a safe word? Isn’t it better to have a forgiveness structure?
“Permission structure,” an arcane term drawn from the “game theory” branch of political science, which studies how people make decisions, shed quite a bit of light on how this president thinks about the limits of his power at the dawn of his second term.
You can think of it as a fancy way to say “politics.” And you’ll be seeing it in upcoming debates on everything from immigration reform to battles over the government’s finances. It’s likely to be a feature of the next round of the gun debate, since Obama served notice in Mexico on Thursday that he would try again on that front. (You know who else used “permission structure”? Some Mitt Romney supporters. See below).
Doesn’t it make you feel comfortable knowing that the government can “recalculate” and find $5 billion. That’s a lot of money anywhere except the U.S. federal government.
WASHINGTON (AP)—The White House budget office is recalculating how to apply automatic spending cuts for a handful of agencies, freeing up almost $4 billion for the Pentagon and another $1 billion or so for other agencies like the Homeland Security Department and NASA.
Capitol Hill aides familiar with the White House changes say the administration has identified almost $5 billion in cuts that can be restored under its reading of the arcane budget rules governing the across-the-board cuts, known as sequestration.
The calculations differ from earlier ones because a partial-year funding bill was replaced in March with a more detailed measure. After administration number crunchers redid their math they were able to restore about $5 billion of the scheduled $85 billion in automatic sequestration cuts under a complicated, previously unused mechanism that dates to a 1985 budget law.
Um… why weren’t we doing this before?
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Homeland Security Department ordered border agents to verify that every international student who arrives in the U.S. has a valid student visa, according to an internal memorandum obtained Friday by The Associated Press. The new procedure is the government’s first security change directly related to the Boston bombings.
As much as those who want to make our immigration polices even easier don’t want this to impact the debate… it will.
(CNN)—Three friends of Boston Marathon bomb suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev have been jailed on charges they tried to throw investigators off Tsarnaev’s trail, federal prosecutors announced Wednesday.
Two of them, Azamat Tazhayakov and Dias Kadyrbayev, were already in federal custody on immigration charges, their lawyers told CNN. Both are from Kazakhstan and had student visas.
The third, Robel Phillipos, is a U.S. citizen. All three are accused of removing items from Tsarnaev’s dorm room after the April 15 bombings, which killed three people and wounded more than 260.
Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev are charged with obstruction of justice, while Phillipos is charged with lying to federal agents probing the bombing, according to court papers. They made their first appearance before a judge Wednesday afternoon, when they were read the charges against them and informed of their rights.
This is interesting.
PHOENIX (Reuters) - Arizona Governor Jan Brewer on Monday signed legislation forcing municipalities to resell firearms from gun buy-back programs rather than destroy them, closing a loophole in the conservative state’s laws.
Brewer, a Republican and staunch gun rights advocate, signed the bill preventing local governments from melting down the weapons obtained from these popular civic events. Before the new law, the state had allowed such firearms to be destroyed.
Supporters of the measure said municipalities were wasting taxpayers’ money by not realizing the revenue from reselling turned-in weapons.
On the one hand, it is a waste for taxpayers to buy a bunch of guns just to melt them down. Some of those guns still have value. On the other hand, the whole motivation behind these programs is to allow people who want to get rid of a gun a good way to do it with no questions asked. The presumption is that if the people don’t want any questions asked, then they must not be allowed to have a gun. But many times, it’s just more convenient to get rid of ol’ great uncle’s crappy shotgun with one of these programs than it is to go through the hassle of selling it.
Should these guns be melted down? Not? Should it really be a state mandate or left up to whoever is running the buy-back programs? If the people running those programs see them as a revenue source by reselling the guns, is that really the role of government at all?
SO WHEN DEMOCRATS ARE PUSHING TO BAN PEOPLE ON THE “TERROR WATCH LIST” FROM BUYING GUNS, they’re really pushing to have a constitutional right blocked by your placement on a secret list put together by unaccountable bureaucrats with no due process. Just to be clear what they’re really talking about.