Getting bad news from recent Quinnipiac University poll, President Barack Obama can’t ignore that 76% to 17% of respondents approved a special prosecutor to deal with the budding IRS scandal. Under White House direction, the IRS scrutinized conservative 501(c)(4) nonprofits more than their liberal counterparts, prompting a national outrage calling for Atty. Gen. Eric Holder’s head. Whatever Holder’s role in the IRS controversy, ordering the FBI to tap the cells phones of the Associated Press and Fox News Reporter James Rosen has created a national press boycott of the AG’s office. Keeping Holder on the job looks more self-serving to the president hoping to avoid the indignity of a Special Prosecutor looking into White House shenanigans. Keeping Holder onboard has become a feeble White House defense against an inevitable Special Prosecutor.
Obama’s refusal at this point to dump Holder has pluses and minuses, depending how you look at it. If he jettisons Holder, it could stem the growing outrage and mob mentality seeking a Special Prosecutor to get to the bottom of how far up the chain the orders were given to investigate right-leaning 501(c) (4) nonprofit groups. If Obama ignores the hue-and-cry, he risks dragging on the controversy and risking the 2014 midterm elections. Quinnipiac’s poll prioritized voter sentiment about brewing scandals showing that the IRS controversy tops everyone’s list. Firing Holder would be a good start in showing that Barack’s serious about getting to the bottom of who ordered the IRS to scrutinize right wing groups. Obama knows that when Holder testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee May 15, he said he had nothing to do with leak investigation on reporters.
Backtracking on his May 15 statements, Holder now says he’s willing to review Justice Department policies on issuing subpoenas on journalists to investigate White House and State Department leaks. “All of these investigations may be having a negative effect on voters’ willingness to trust the federal government to do the right thing,” said Peter Brown, Asst. Director of Quinnipiac’s Polling Institute. Whatever Holder does to change Justice Department policies about investigating White House or State Department leaks doesn’t change the fact that he ordered the FBI to investigate. As the nation’s chief prosecutor, Holder was responsible for upholding the Constitution, not trampling on the Bill of Rights. Putting Fox News reporter James Rosen under the microscope crossed a dangerous line between the government and free press. If the government intimidates the press or citizens, it violates the First Amendment.
When the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration report came out May 14, it criticized the IRS for using “inappropriate criteria were used to identify tax-exempt applications for review,” prompting the current investigation that identified conservative groups for unfair targeting. Because the decisions were made in the Department of Justice, Holder must stand accountable for anything inappropriate that went down. “CBS News does not plan to participate in the off-the-record meeting with Eric Holder. We would be willing to consider an on-the-record discussion,” said CBS News spokesperson Sonya McNair, joining AP, Fox News, CNN and other mainstream media outlet boycotting the DOJ. When IRS Director of Tax Exempt Operations Lois Lerner took the Fifth May 24 before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, it raised red flags about what she’s hiding.
Just nine days before Lerner took the Fifth, Acting IRS Commissioner Stephen Miller resigned May 15, hoping to take the fall for administration. “It isn’t appropriate for us to attend an off the record meeting with the attorney general. Our Washington bureau is aggressively covering the department’s handling of leak investigations at this time,” said New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson, closing ranks with other media organizations. When the Obama administration goes after the press and shows no willingness to punish the chief offender, the media sticks together to make a point. Whether admitted to or not by Obama or White House spokesman Jay Carney, the Free Press has a First Amendment responsibility to protect the U.S. Constitution from government abuses. When liberal Georgetown Law Professor Jonathan Turley calls for Holder to step down, you know things have headed south.
Obama has no choice now but to send Holder packing. If he doesn’t act quickly, he’s going to find himself embroiled in a Constitutional battle with Congress, potentially resulting in articles of impeachment. Whether the Democratic majority in the Senate would convict is unlikely. Letting Holder stay in place throws gasoline on a wildfire that’s burning out-of-control. Canning Holder would show that Obama’s serious about expressing his disapproval for the nation’s top law enforcement officials trampling on Constitution. Announcing that FBI Director Robert Mueller was stepping down in September was a positive step in clearing the slate. Now it’s Holder’s turn to take an early retirement. No president can move ahead with an ambitious second-term agenda under a dark cloud. Sitting on the fence with Holder harms Obama’s chances of getting anything done.
About the Author
John M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’s editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma.