Before the devastating EF-5 tornado ripped through Moore, Okla., last week, President Obama was reeling through one of his most challenging weeks in the White House.
Dramatic testimony examining the Internal Revenue Service’s ill-advised tactics to target conservative groups conquered the news cycle. An investigation into the Department of Justice’s decision to secretly obtain communications records of journalists and the constant trickle of detail leaking about the Benghazi terrorist attack provided added fodder for talking heads discussing the controversies on cable television.
Surely the president was looking forward to the Memorial Day recess and a break from the negative attention.
While members of the House of Representatives and Senate enjoy that weeklong vacation from legislative business to celebrate the holiday in their districts this week, back on Capitol Hill the investigations into the administration’s trio of potential mishaps continue unabated.
Today, two senior members of the House Judiciary committee wrote a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder expressing “great concern” regarding his congressional testimony earlier this month in which he said he did not involve himself with DOJ’s decision to acquire a search warrant to obtain communications records from journalists.
In response to a question from Georgia Democratic Rep. Hank Johnson regarding the application of the Espionage Act to prosecute journalists for publishing classified material, Holder denied he had ever directly involved himself, testifying under oath May 15 that “[w]ith regard to potential prosecution of the press for the disclosure of material, that is not something that I have ever been involved in, heard of, or would think would be a wise policy.”
Later, DOJ issued a statement disclosing that Holder actually vetted the decision to obtain emails from James Rosen, a Fox News reporter suspected of receiving classified information from Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, a former State Department official facing federal prosecution, although officials maintain that Holder’s involvement was in the potential prosecution of Kim, not Rosen.
“The Department took great care in deciding that a search warrant was necessary in the Kim matter, vetting the decision at the highest levels of the Department, including discussions with the Attorney General,” a background statement from a DOJ official read. Those comments initiated an investigation at the House Judiciary committee, which culminated in today’s letter,
“The media reports and statements issued by the Department regarding the search warrants for Mr. Rosen’s emails appear to be at odds with your sworn testimony before the Committee,” Reps. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., wrote today. “We believe – and we hope you will agree – it is imperative that the Committee, the Congress, and the American people be provided a full and accurate account of your involvement in and approval of these search warrants.”
The duo then set a June 5 deadline for Holder to answer a slate of questions regarding the matter, including “all regulations and internal Justice Department policies that govern the issuance of search warrants for the email communications of members of the media.”
Also today, the House Ways and Means committee announced plans to hold a hearing next Tuesday featuring representatives from conservative organizations that were targeted by the IRS. That event is in addition to a previously announced hearing on the same topic at the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, where the newly appointed Acting IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel will testify in his new capacity for the first time — alongside Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George, who has become a celebrity of sorts in Washington after setting off the IRS controversy with his report examining the beleaguered agency.
On Monday, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa fired off a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry explaining his decision to subpoena all documents related to the revisions of the now notorious Benghazi talking points.
“The State Department has not lived up to the Administration’s broad and unambiguous promises of cooperation with Congress,” Issa, R-Calif., wrote in a letter accompanying the subpoena. “My colleagues in Congress and I have requested documents and information related to the ongoing investigation. To date, the Administration has largely ignored these requests, despite various pledges both you and the President have made to cooperate with Congress.”
Issa set a new June 7 deadline for Kerry to provide an exhaustive account of communications involving 10 former and current officials at the State Department.
The House and Senate return for legislative business June 3, but by then who knows what else the news cycle might bring?