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Posts tagged ‘Darrell Issa’

Darrell Issa Hammers Rep. Cummings Over House Probe of Lois Lerner.


House Oversight committee chairman Darrell Issa ramped up his feud with Maryland Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings on Friday, slamming him for hampering the panel’s probe of the IRS’s tea party-targeting scandal — and efforts to get retired official Lois Lerner to testify about it — out of loyalty to the White House and his own party.

In a scathing letter, Issa accused Cummings of acting like a defense lawyer for Lerner, who has twice refused to answer questions before the committee, most recently on March 5, by invoking her Fifth Amendment rights, The Hill reported.

“Your tactics undermine the committee’s investigative prerogatives and harm the institutional interests of the House of Representatives,” the California Republican wrote.

“Even though the White House helped orchestrate your ascension to ranking member, I have encouraged, and continue to encourage, you to subordinate your political loyalties to the institutional interests of the committee and the House, especially in cases like this where obstructing the committee’s work risks permanently disadvantaging Congress in its interactions with the executive branch.”

Cummings has argued the GOP’s pursuit of a contempt charge against Lerner is politically driven and lacks legal standing. On Wednesday, he wrote to House Speaker John Boehner, contending Issa committed a “fatal error” at the end of the contentious March 5 hearing by not making it clear Lerner would face a charge of contempt by refusing to talk.

“You and your lawyers and consultants say, repeatedly, that our committee did not provide ‘certainty for the witness and her counsel that a contempt prosecution was inevitable,'” Issa wrote Cummings, The Hill reported.

“But as a longtime member of the House of Representatives, you know as well as I do that that is a certainty that neither I nor anyone else can provide.”

In a blistering response, Cummings shot back that “seven independent constitutional law experts have now concluded that Chairman Issa botched the contempt proceedings,” The Washington Examiner reported.

“The chairman’s letter today provides no House Counsel memo or opinion, even though he and Speaker Boehner claimed they had one this week, and it cites no experts who support his inaccurate view of the Constitution and the law,” he charged.

“The entire country has now seen firsthand how Chairman Issa runs this Committee in violation of House Rules, and no reasonable person would accept his legal views over those of the United States Supreme Court. Contrary to Chairman Issa’s accusations, we are not defending Lois Lerner or her actions — we are defending the Constitution and the rights it guarantees to all Americans.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Cathy Burke

‘Growing Crescendo’ in GOP to Hold Lerner in Contempt


There’s a “growing crescendo” to hold retired IRS official Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress for her repeated refusal to testify about the tax agency’s targeted scrutiny of tea party groups, one House Oversight Committee member said Wednesday.

In the wake of a contentious less-than-10-minute hearing where Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination — triggering an angry exchange between committee chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa and ranking Democrat Rep. Elijah Cummings — North Carolina Republican Rep. Mark Meadows said “The American people … want to hold those people accountable.. and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

“There is a growing crescendo that they should hold her in contempt of Congress and the American people get what they deserve,” Meadows told Fox News.

Among the GOP chorus calling for a contempt charge is House Speaker John Boehner.

“She has to testify or she should be held in contempt,” the Ohio Republican said after the hearing, saying he’d wait for a report from Issa.

A contempt vote could lead to a criminal prosecution — and fan the controversy that erupted last year when the agency’s extra scrutiny of tea party-backed nonprofits came to light.

Issa’s committee since then has held five hearings, issued three subpoenas for documents and interviewed IRS officials.

Democrats howled after the hearing, where Cummings had demanded he be given a right to speak before adjournment — but instead had his microphone turned off.

“I am a member of the Congress of the United States of America,” Cummings yelled as Issa dismissed the meeting and cut of microphones. “I am tired of this.

“We have members over here, each who represent 700,000 people. You cannot just have a one-sided investigation. There is absolutely something wrong with that. And, it’s absolutely un-American,” Cummings yelled.

“We had a hearing. We are adjourned. I gave you an opportunity to ask a question. You had no questions,” Issa, a Republican from California, responded.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, slammed Issa for conducting a “witch hunt.”

“What we’re seeing in the House today is a sign of larger dysfunction and partisanship on behalf of Republicans,” Van Hollen told MSNBC’s “Daily Rundown,” according to Politico.

“Darrell Issa has been conducting this political witch hunt for a long time now. He’s frustrated because he hasn’t been able to come up with any evidence of intentional political wrongdoing on the part of the Obama administration, and so he’s getting frustrated and making stuff up.”

Democratic National Committee chair, Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, called Issa’s conduct at the Wednesday hearing comparable to oppression in Ukraine and Venezuela, according to Politico, saying she was “stunned” that Issa would try to silence Cummings by cutting off his mic.

Cummings continued speaking for about 10 minutes; Lerner remained seated.

Issa said he’ll decide by next week whether his committee will seek to hold Lerner in contempt.

Lerner first appeared before the committee last May, when she also invoked the Fifth Amendment after maintaining that she was innocent of wrongdoing. The committee determined the following month that Lerner waived her right against self-incrimination by making that statement.

A Treasury inspector general’s report has since determined the IRS had used inappropriate criteria to scrutinize groups, though it found no evidence of a political motivation.

The Justice Department is involved in a criminal probe of the matter.

The IRS has since proposed new rules for handling social welfare groups engaged in political activity, though conservative groups have called them too restrictive.

Bloomberg news contributed to this report

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Wanda Carruthers and Cathy Burke

Rep. Hastings Announces Retirement In Wake of Debt-Ceiling Vote.


Image: Rep. Hastings Announces Retirement In Wake of Debt-Ceiling Vote

 

By Todd Beamon

Rep. Doc Hastings on Thursday became the latest House Republican to announce his retirement — two days after he was part of a critical coalition of House leaders, made up of retiring GOP members and representatives primarily from Northeastern states, that backed a controversial bill to raise America’s debt ceiling without restrictions.

“Last Friday, I celebrated my 73rd birthday, and while I have the ability and seniority to continue serving central Washington, it is time for the voters to choose a new person with new energy to represent them in the people’s House,” Hastings said in a statement.

First elected in 1995, Hastings is chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee and recently called for overhauling the Endangered Species Act, charging that the 40-year-old law has been abused by environmental groups seeking to restrict development in the name of species protection.

The announcement came a day after GOP Rep. Gary Miller, 66, of California said that he was retiring after more than 15 years in the House because of family issues.

Hastings is now the 24th member of Congress to say that this year would be his last. He joins 13 Republicans and 11 Democrats to disclose their impending departures from Capitol Hill.

In the House, he is the 11th Republican and 18th member overall to announce his retirement.

But on Tuesday, Hastings and Miller joined with Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy and 23 other House Republicans to support a one-year extension of the nation’s borrowing authority — agreeing to President Barack Obama’s demands for a debt-limit increase without any conditions.

Boehner backed the legislation, which won on a 221-201 vote. Two Democrats, John Barrow of Georgia and Jim Matheson of Utah, joined the GOP in rejecting it.

Besides splitting the House leadership — the No. 4 Republican, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state, the highest-ranking House GOP woman, was among the leaders to vote “no” — the vote rankled conservatives, tea party supporters and rank-and-file Republicans.

The Senate Conservatives Fund even charged that Boehner should be replaced as speaker.

These groups were further outraged the next day when the Senate voted — after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, and Minority Whip John Cornyn, of Texas, led an assault on a filibuster by Sen. Ted Cruz — to pass a similar debt bill on a straight 55-43 party-line vote.

In the House, the 28 Republicans voting for the measure included six who are retiring at the end of the year. Besides Hastings and Miller, they are Howard Coble, N.C.; Buck McKeon, Calif.; Jon Runyan, N.J.; and Frank Wolf, Va.

“You’ve got retirees, the leadership and Republicans in safe districts with a Northeastern bias,” political analyst and pollster Doug Schoen explained to Newsmax on Thursday.

“Basically, the votes they gave were enough to get it passed — and they didn’t want to put anyone at risk,” he added. “It was retirees, leadership, and Northeastern moderate Republicans who could take the vote without a problem.”

Others in the top House leadership who supported the debt ceiling bill included Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, Mich.; Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, Calif.; Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, Ky.; and Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, Calif.

Those Northeastern Republicans on board included four from New York — Reps. Chris Collins, Michael Grimm, Richard Hanna, Peter King — as well as three each from neighboring New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Seven California House members backed the measure.

“Put it another way: For the Republican base, this is toxic — and the way the process was organized was to insulate the party and its grass-roots as much as possible to avoid any political problems,” Schoen told Newsmax.

The primary problem was avoiding another federal government shutdown, similar to the partial one that lasted 16 days in October and cost taxpayers $1.4 billion — especially when the GOP could possibly retake the Senate in this fall’s congressional elections.

“It goes back to their basis thesis: We get through this. We don’t fight on an issue we can’t win because, ultimately, this election is moving in our direction — and we don’t need to have a problem like the problem we had with the government shutdown.”

Political strategist Dick Morris described the House skirmishing on Thursday as “phony” and “fraudulent.”

“Boehner went to his caucus and said: ‘Hey guys, let’s approve the debt limit in return for pretty-good spending cuts or other restorations,'” Morris told John Bachman on “America’s Forum” on Newsmax TV. “The House Republicans said, or enough of them said: ‘We’re not going to vote for a debt-limit increase under any circumstance. You could balance the whole budget and we’re not going to go for it.’

“He didn’t have his 218 votes to pass it — and he couldn’t get any Democratic votes if there were cuts,” Morris said of Boehner.

The Ohio Republican then put together the GOP coalition to support the clean bill.

“All of these Republican congressmen can now go to their primary opponents from the tea party and say, ‘Hey, I voted against raising the debt limit’ — knowing darn well that they were willing to vote for it if they needed it,” Morris said.

Schoen saw it another way.

“The Republican Party did not want to vote to increase the debt ceiling,” he said. “Because they are in the majority, they had to provide some votes — in this case, 28 — to go along with near-unanimous Democratic support to get it done.

“The leadership understood that it was in their interest, long-term, to increase the debt ceiling without any riders or any possibility of paralyzing the government,” Schoen added. “The vast majority of Republicans, for a variety of reasons, disagree.

“For John Boehner, this became a practical step to avoid more political harakiri.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

IRS Off the Hook: No Criminal Charges Over Tea Party Targeting.


The FBI is not planning to file criminal charges involving the Internal Revenue Service’s extra scrutiny of the Tea Party and other conservative groups, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday, citing law enforcement officials.

The newspaper quoted officials as saying that investigators probing the IRS actions, which unleashed a political furor in Washington, did not uncover the type of political bias or “enemy hunting” that would constitute a criminal violation. The evidence showed a mismanaged agency enforcing rules it did not understand on applications for tax exemptions, the Journal reported.

The case is still under investigation, but criminal charges were unlikely unless unexpected evidence emerged, officials familiar with the probe told the paper.

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment when queried by Reuters.

If there are no criminal charges as expected, the FBI is likely to see a backlash from already skeptical conservative groups which had raised the idea that the administration would not police itself.

House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa last week questioned whether a prosecutor handling the case for the Justice Department could remain impartial when he donated to the Obama campaign.

And just last week, The Washington Times reported that some conservative groups were only just being contacted  by the IRS, raising the question of just how thorough an investigation the FBI conducted.

Cleta Mitchell, another attorney representing some of the targeted groups, said last week her clients have not heard from investigators.

“Normally, don’t you first interview the victims?” Mitchell said. “I mean, I’ve watched enough cop shows over the years. You interview the victims. You don’t interview the perp.”

FBI Director James Comey told reporters last week when asked about the IRS probe, “It’s an investigation that we’re still working, and that’s an important one for us.” He declined to comment on whether the FBI believed a crime had been committed.

In May, a senior IRS executive made an unexpected public apology at a legal conference for what she described as improper scrutiny by the agency of conservative political groups.

The apology set off weeks of investigation and controversy, culminating in findings that Tea Party-linked political groups applying for tax-exempt status had been subjected to extra review and delay by employees at an IRS Cincinnati field office.

Republican lawmakers attacked President Barack Obama’s administration over the issue, accusing the agency of political bias.

Obama asked then-acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller to resign in the days after the disclosure, and the FBI opened an investigation.

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.
Source: Newsmax.com

Lawmakers Press Holder to Explain Prosecution of Reddit’s Swartz.


Lawmakers are demanding answers from Attorney General Eric Holder over the Justice Department’s conduct toward late Internet activist Aaron Swartz, who committed suicide one year ago, after he was slammed with federal charges over breaking into a Massachusetts Institute of Technology computer network.

A bipartisan group of eight lawmakers from the House and Senate wrote to Holder on Friday, one day before the first anniversary of Swartz’ suicide, calling him a “brilliant technologist and activist” and demanding that Holder explain how the Justice Department’s conduct toward the 26-year-old was “appropriate,” reports The Hill.

Lawmakers said they asked for details a year ago over the department’s treatment, but got no answers, “not even the sentencing memoranda that surely were prepared in a case such as this.”

Swartz’s family maintain he killed himself because of the overzealous federal prosecutors in his case. He was facing up to 35 years in prison and up to $1 million in fines after he was charged with wire and computer fraud, among other charges, for breaking into the MIT servers and downloading nearly 5 million documents from the JSTOR academic service.

The eight lawmakers, Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas; Ron Wyden, D-Ore.; Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.; and Reps. Darrell Issa, R-Calif.; James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis.; Alan Grayson, D-Fla.; Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif.; and Jared Polis, D-Colo., also said they “respectfully disagree” with Holder’s claims that the case represented “a good use of prosecutorial discretion.”

Beyond his legal troubles, Swartz was considered a computer genius who as a teenager helped create the publishing program RSS, which allows people to subscribe to website, blog, and news site updates. Swartz co-founded the social news website Reddit, which was later sold to Conde Nast, as well as the political action group Demand Progress, which campaigns against Internet censorship.

Meanwhile, web visionaries Saturday remembered Swartz and his legacy, reports Wired.com.

Story continues below video.

“I think Aaron was trying to make the world work – he was trying to fix it,” World Wide Web founder Tim Berners-Lee said. “So he was a bit ahead of his time.”

And Creative Commons founder Lawrence Lessig, who noted “he was just doing what he thought was right to produce a world that was better.”

Director Brian Knappenberger, whose documentary “The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz” will debut at the Sundance Film Festival later this month, drew parallels between Swartz and National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.

“Now we are all submerged in a massively networked world where every important part of our lives has an online component to it,” Knappenberger said. “Geeks and hackers already knew this but, thanks to Edward Snowden, now everyone realizes it.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Sandy Fitzgerald

FBI Finally Contacts Conservative Groups in IRS Targeting.


Image: FBI Finally Contacts Conservative Groups in IRS Targeting

 

By Sandy Fitzgerald

The FBI is contacting some conservative groups that were targeted by the Internal Revenue Service as calls heat up for a key Justice Department investigator to step down from the probe after questions about her donations to President Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns.

A lawyer working with some of the tea party groups told The Washington Times that a “small number” of his clients were recently contacted, albeit seven months after the investigation was to begin.

“After seven months of no contact from federal investigators, a small number of our clients recently received a request for an interview from the FBI,” said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law & Justice, which represents more than three dozen of the organizations.

Cleta Mitchell, another attorney representing some of the targeted groups, said her clients have not heard from investigators.

“Normally, don’t you first interview the victims?” Mitchell said. “I mean, I’ve watched enough cop shows over the years. You interview the victims. You don’t interview the perp.”

Republicans, though, say the whole investigation is under question following the selection of Justice Department attorney Barbara Kay Bosserman to lead the probe. Bosserman donated more than $6,000 to the president’s campaigns, and Republicans say she cannot be impartial.

House Speaker John Boehner said he is concerned by the Obama administration’s many obstructions on not only the IRS investigation, but many other issues.

“The administration has not been forthcoming with regard to the IRS investigation,” the Ohio Republican said. “Furthermore, they’ve not been forthcoming when it comes to the Benghazi investigation or Fast and Furious. And the administration can try to stonewall as much as they want, but these issues are not going to go away. The American people have a right to know the truth. And for the administration that came in five years ago promising to be the most transparent administration in history, they’ve got a very poor record.”

Meanwhile, Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul called for independent investigations into the IRS scandal.

“They say the fox isn’t good to guard the henhouse; the fox is probably not good to investigate the henhouse, either,” Paul said Thursday. “I think these investigations need to be done by independent people outside of the administration.”

Last spring, Attorney General Eric Holder ordered an FBI investigation after it was revealed the IRS had been targeting conservative groups for additional scrutiny and delaying tax-exempt status for hundreds of groups’ applications.

However, not much has been done with the investigation since that time, and House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa and co-chair Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, complained last month that the committee still has not gotten related documents.

While the FBI rejected many of Issa’s demands for documents, he learned Bosserman was leading the investigation for the Justice Department, and on Wednesday he and Jordan sent a letter to Holder saying her selection tainted the entire investigation.

The Justice Department says federal law and policy prevents it from denying assignments based on an employee’s political views, and doing so violates workers’ rights right to participate in the political process, The Washington Times reports.

Sekulow said his firm’s clients are evaluating FBI’s requests, but Bosserman’s political leanings “create a serious conflict of interest and raises more questions and doubts about the Obama administration’s promise to get to the bottom of what happened.”

The FBI refused comment, pointing to a letter sent on Dec. 31 by Stephen Kelly, assistant director for the agency’s office of congressional affairs.

“We would request that the committee permit the investigators to complete their investigation and consult with federal prosecutors, as appropriate, to determine whether the evidence reveals a prosecutable violation of any statutes within our jurisdiction,” said Kelly. “As a result, we cannot provide the documents requested at this time while the criminal investigation is active and ongoing.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Issa: End Saturday Mail and Save Billions for Military Pensions.


Image: Issa: End Saturday Mail and Save Billions for Military Pensions

 

By Cynthia Fagen

Rep. Darrell Issa has introduced a bill to replace proposed military pension cuts by scrapping Saturday mail delivery, Postal News reported Friday.

Issa believes that cutting Saturday service would create an estimated $17 billion reserve over 10 years, replacing a one percent annual cost of living adjustment for some retired military veterans that was included in the 2013 bipartisan budget deal.

“This legislation will restore cost of living adjustments for our military retirees and not only replace the savings but nearly triple them, saving $17 billion over 10 years according to conservative USPS estimates,” Issa (R-Ca.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said in a statement.

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“The common sense reform will help restore the cash strapped Postal service to long-term solvency and is supported by the president and key congressional leaders in both chambers, he said, referring to President Obama’s recommendation to eliminate Saturday service in his budget proposal.”

Package, express, and priority mail delivery would continue.

But the cash-strapped Postal Service says it does not have the money to meet its own obligation to a retiree healthcare trust fund. The USPS has tried to eliminate letter delivery on Saturday in the past, which it estimates would save about $2 billion a year. The USPS lost $16 billion in 2012.

House Budget Committee Chairman and co-author of the 2013 budget Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said he was open to changing the military pension cuts “if people believe there is a better way to solve this problem.” Military retirees could face up to $124,000 in lost retirement pay over a lifetime. The one per cent annual cuts would save some $6.2 million over 10 years.

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