ABC News’ Devin Dwyer (@devindwyer) reports: The Republican National Committee has asked the Justice Department to investigate what it calls a matter of “grave concern:” President Obama’s appearance in a campaign video filmed inside the White House.
“If President Obama recorded the video in the Map Room, then it appears he has committed a crime under federal law,” RNC chairman Reince Priebus wrote in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder.
The letter attempts to revive an issue Republicans first raised weeks ago but that has failed to gain much attention or traction. Many good government groups and independent legal experts have dismissed the claims.
Still, Priebus says Obama’s use of a “place of official government business” to solicit political contributions is against the law, and that all money collected in response to the video should be returned. He stopped short of calling for the appointment of a special counsel.
The Map Room has been “used for a myriad of official functions, including the administration of the oath of office” and the launch of the administration’s effort to reduce government waste, Priebus wrote in the letter. “As the facts of this case strongly suggest a crime was committed,” he said.
The White House counters that the Map Room is part of the “residence,” making it a perfectly legal venue, and that ample precedent exists for filming campaign materials on White House grounds.
An administration official provided a list of YouTube clips of Republican presidents using the White House in campaign ads, including THIS one from President George W. Bush and THIS one from President Ronald Reagan.
“As we have said in the past, this was wholly appropriate and routinely done in past administrations, as evidenced by an abundance of examples spanning the past three decades,” said White House spokesman Eric Schultz. “In fact, experts and lawyers have said publicly that all of what this administration is doing is above board.”
You can view the Obama video in question HERE.
“This is a disgraceful, desperate and politically-motivated attempt at getting headlines,” said DNC Communications Director Brad Woodhouse in a statement.
The White House also provided a 1979 finding by the Office of Legal Council that concludes “areas within the discrete private residence area … may therefore reasonably be seen to fall outside the reach of the statute” that restricts presidential political activities.