As the dimensions of the IRS scandal and the Phone records seizures widen, it has become apparent that Barack Obama indeed has an enemies list. For years those who pointed out the possibilities were scoffed at as paranoid or conspiracy theorists. They were ridiculed and lumped together with global warming deniers and birthers.
But now under the hot glare of the lights in Congressional hearing rooms the real story is gradually being pulled out of reluctant witnesses who are attempting to protect their Messiah. However, the threat of charges of perjury and lying to Congress has loosened the tongues of these reluctant witnesses.
We now have one of the central participants in the IRS scandal threatening to invoke her Fifth Amendment privileges rather than testify. Lois Lerner, the director of the exempt organizations division, has asked the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee through her attorney that she be excused from testifying today since she will invoke the Fifth Amendment.
Lerner’s attorney William Taylor III argued in the letter that forcing Lerner to appear “would have no purpose other than to embarrass or burden her.” Her request was denied. By invoking the Fifth Amendment Ms. Lerner is acknowledging the possibility that criminal behavior took place in her division and that she could be charged with a crime because of it.
We now have the former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman saying to the Senate Finance Committee hearing that he was aware of an internal list that included the term “Tea Party.” That list was used as the basis for singling out some groups applying for tax-exempt status. Shulman also said he did not know how the controversial program started, adding that lower-level officials “should have run up the chain” their knowledge about the program earlier.
For more than a year, from 2011 through the 2012 election, members of Congress repeatedly asked Shulman about complaints from Tea Party groups that they were being harassed by the IRS. Shulman’s responses, usually relayed by a deputy, did not acknowledge that agents had ever targeted Tea Party groups for special scrutiny. At a congressional hearing March 22, 2012, Shulman was adamant in his denials.
“There’s absolutely no targeting. This is the kind of back and forth that happens to people” who apply for tax-exempt status, Shulman said at the House Ways and Means subcommittee hearing.
According to the Inspector General’s report Interim IRS Commissioner Stephen Miller knew about the targeting of conservative groups last March but in a subsequent letter to Congress he denied any knowledge. This would seem to open him up to a charge of lying to Congress.
As testimony on the scandal unfolds on Capital Hill, the White House has continued to change their story on their involvement. At first Jay Carney, the President’s Press Secretary, told the press corps on May 14th that the President and other members of his staff became aware of the scandal through the news media.
It turns out that his assertion wasn’t quite the case. Carney’s story has evolved as the details of the IG’s report have become common knowledge. The White House has offered a new timeline on their knowledge of the scandal.
The White House now admits that the President’s Chief of Staff and the While House Counsel both knew about the scandal in advance of the release of the report. Word was also sent to top aides to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew so his department could brace for the news. Of course, the President denies knowing anything about the report before its release.
Which leads us to Howard Baker’s famous question during the Watergate hearings. “What did the President know and when did he know it?” It is simply not credible to believe that neither top staffer informed the President of the soon-to-explode scandal. Instead, the White House seems to be going with the story that the President’s staff not only kept him in the dark but it is not competent.
The White House believes that by having the President expressing his outrage he will appear to be on the side of the taxpayers. However, it appears that his credibility with the American people is fast melting like snow in July. Meanwhile, the White House has limited its statements to the reports of wrongdoing rather than the wrongdoing itself.
This is their mode of operation in the other scandals, too. With Benghazi, they appear to be trying to take the same approach. They are trying to suck all of the oxygen out of the scandal by focusing on the talking points rather than answering the questions that need to be answered.
Here’s a video of the experience that one organization experienced in their attempt to receive tax-exempt status.