As evidence mounts that officials at the top levels of the Internal Revenue Service were involved in the targeting of conservative groups applying for 501 (c) (4) status during the 2012 election cycle, the White House is attempting to put distance between the scandal and President Obama, at the same time he is facing increasing scrutiny related to his whereabouts and actions during the terrorist attack that lead to the death of Libyan Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans at a diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya on Sept. 11, 2012, as well as the seizing of phone records and email searches of AP reporters, and those of Fox News reporter James Rosen.
On Wednesday, an I.R.S. official who has emerged as one of the main figures at the center of the controversy, Lois Lerner, added fuel to the fire during her appearance before The House Oversight Committee.
Lerner was asked last week to resign from her post as head of the IRS division on tax exempt organizations. She was placed on administrative leave, with pay, after refusing that request. Lerner was called to testify on Wednesday before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. During her appearance she said she would not answer questions due to her Constitutional right to refrain from incriminating herself.
However, before invoking her Fifth Amendment privilege, Lerner made a statement proclaiming herself innocent of any wrongdoing. Many legal experts argue that Lerner waived her Fifth Amendment rights when she made that statement.
“You don’t get to tell your side of the story and then not be subjected to cross-examination. That’s not the way it works,” said Rep. Trey Gowdy (R) of South Carolina, a former federal prosecutor. “She [Lerner] waived her right to Fifth Amendment privilege by issuing an opening statement. She ought to stand here and answer our questions.”
Darrell Issa (R-CA), Chairman of the House Committee investigating the IRS scandal, said he agrees with the assessment that Lerner “may have waived” her rights and also that he was looking into the possibility of recalling her in an effort to compel her to answer questions.
The problem is, very few people in the Obama administration, at any level, seem to know anything, and if they do they don’t seem to be willing to answer questions. The running theme has been either, “I don’t know.” or, “I’m not saying.” This has lead many political observers to declare that this is either the most incompetent administration in our history, or the most corrupt. More than a few believe both are true. It’s hard to argue with that sentiment based on the administration’s response thus far to the trio of growing scandals they are facing.
“Clearly they missed some classes in crisis management 101,” Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson told Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation Sunday. “You’re supposed to get information out before people even ask for it; you should have consistent explanations.”
Schieffer said later in the broadcast that Obama, “needs to rethink his entire communications policy.”
No link to President Obama or the White House has yet been found, but the claim that the President knew nothing about a scandal that even some of his senior advisors were aware of isn’t sitting well with those leading the investigation. How could the President not know a thing about this (the IRS scandal), Benghazi, or the AP and Fox News scandal if he is half as engaged as he claims to be?
Obama’s declaration of ignorance clearly isn’t going to be enough to keep him above the fray for much longer, and it’s doubtful that feigning anger will carry him much further. At some point he is the Executive in Chief, and executives are responsible for what goes on underneath them, even when they are not directly involved. He is almost assuredly going to have to bear some responsibility is this eventually. Probably sooner rather than later. The only question remains is: Will it be enough to bring down the Obama regime?