Taking the offensive, President Obama today vowed to take action in response to the three controversies plaguing his administration, calling on Congress to provide additional resources to protect U.S. embassies abroad, promising to hold accountable those who committed “outrageous actions” at the IRS, and pledging to strike a “balance” between protecting national security interests and the freedom of the press.
“My concern is making sure that if there’s a problem in the government, that we fix it,” the president said in a rainy joint Rose Garden news conference with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as his administration seeks to take charge in the wake of the controversies. “That’s my responsibility, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
One day after the acting IRS commissioner was forced to resign after an investigation revealed the IRS targeted conservative groups, Obama said he knew nothing of the misconduct until he learned about it in media reports.
“I can assure you that I certainly did not know anything about the IG [inspector general] report before the IG report had been leaked through the press,” he said. “Typically, the IG reports are not supposed to be widely distributed or shared.”
The president declined to endorse calls for a special independent counsel to investigate the controversy, but promised to work with Congress to get to the bottom of what happened.
Asked about the government’s seizing of telephone record The Associated Press journalists as part of a leak investigation, Obama spoke to the danger of national security leaks but promised to seek a balance to also protect the freedom of the press.
“When we express concern about leaks at a time when I’ve still got 60,000-plus troops in Afghanistan and I’ve still got a whole bunch of intelligence officers around the world who are in risky situations, in outposts that, in some cases, are as dangerous as the outpost in Benghazi, that part of my job is to make sure that we’re protecting what they do, while still accommodating for … the need for the public to be informed and be able to hold my office accountable,” he said.
Obama was not asked directly about the controversy surrounding the administration’s response to the deadly Sept. 11 terrorist attack at the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, but voluntarily urged lawmakers to provide additional funding for embassy security operations around the world.
“I’ve directed the Defense Department to ensure that our military can respond lightning quick in times of crisis. But we’re not going to be able to do this alone. We’re going to need Congress as a partner,” he said. “I want to say to members of Congress in both parties, we need to come together and truly honor the sacrifice of those four courageous Americans and better secure our diplomatic posts around the world.”
His comments came the day after the White House released hundreds of emails detailing internal communications about how to portray publicly the attack in Benghazi.