- House Republicans are calling for the ouster of IRS Commissioner John Koskinen over his failure to preserve evidence or tell the truth about the agency's targeting of conservative organizations and their donors.
The government's reluctance to hand over relevant materials to Congress in this case also suggests the special Benghazi committee may have trouble getting what it needs from Hillary Clinton's emails.
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, is a longtime member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. He says the IRS was under a preservation order from it's own officials and a subpoena from the oversight committee to maintain critical evidence. But that's not what happened.
"With a preservation order and a subpoena in place, the IRS destroys 422 tapes containing potentially 24,000 emails. This according to the inspector general. They destroyed them on March 4, 2014," said Jordan.
Koskinen became commissioner in the midst of the investigation, but Jordan says his performance has been abysmal.
"Three weeks after that, John Koskinen comes before the oversight committee and testified. He's asked repeatedly about Lois Lerner's emails and he tells us at that hearing, 'I will get you all of her emails.' That's a blatantly false statement if you've destroyed 422 tapes and 24,000 emails," said Jordan.
Just as significant, says Jordan, is that Koskinen has never corrected the record. Meanwhile, the committee is still waiting for thousands of Lerner emails that were salvaged because IRS officials are taking time to make sure there are no duplicates of any emails.
Put together, Jordan says the commissioner has to go.
"When you think about the duties Mr. Koskinen had: a duty to preserve the documents, a duty to produce the documents, a duty to disclose to us when he couldn't preserve and produce those, a duty to give accurate testimony and then, if he's given testimony that's inaccurate, a duty to correct the record," said Jordan.
"He failed every one one of those duties and that's why he needs to go," he added.
Jordan says the GOP demand for Koskinen's removal is not an overreaction. He says the commissioner has already received more tolerance than the government grants the average taxpayer.
"If you're a taxpayer and you're being audited by the Internal Revenue Service, do you get to make false statements and then not correct the record? When you are supposed to preserve things, do they cut you any slack if you wouldn't preserve those and wouldn't produce those and didn't disclose to them when you destroyed those?" asked Jordan.
"There is no way a taxpayer gets that kind of courtesy or that kind of treatment, so why in the world should the agency that serves the taxpayers get some special deal?" he said.
In 2013, President Obama expressed outrage that the IRS allegedly harassed conservative groups applying for non-profit status. Last week on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," Obama had a much different appraisal of the story.
"When there was that problem with the IRS, everybody jumped, including you, 'Look, you've got this back office and they're going after the tea party.' Well, it turned out no," Obama told Stewart, contending that IRS operatives "poorly and stupidly" implemented a confusing law.
"The truth of the matter is there was not some big conspiracy there," Obama insisted.
Jordan says that's simply untrue.
"The IRS was targeting people based on their political beliefs and they targeted conservatives. It's a fact. The inspector general did the investigation and that's what he determined. Now the inspector general has further investigated and determined that they destroyed 422 tapes containing potentially 24,000 emails," said Jordan.
Jordan's frustration extends beyond Koskinen to the commissioner's former chief counsel, Kate Duval.
"One month before those tapes were destroyed, she was on notice that there were problems back in 2011 with Lois Lerner's emails and that the emails they were trying to recover foe congressional investigation, there were gaps in those emails," said Jordan. "So she learns that in February 2014 and doesn't disclose that. In fact a month later they destroy the tapes," said Jordan.
Duval is no longer at the IRS, but Jordan fears her new job could hamstring another critical probe.
"Guess where she's at today? She's over at the State Department. She's left the IRS. She's now at the State Department. She's in charge of document production about Hillary Clinton's emails for the Benghazi select committee," said Jordan, who is a member of the Benghazi panel. "Sometimes fact is stranger than fiction."
House Republicans are demanding President Obama fire Koskinen as head of the IRS but that is very unlikely to happen. Jordan says lawmakers will pursue impeachment if necessary, although he admits that could be a lengthy road.
"We're looking at how that has to unfold. You may have to look at a contempt (of Congress) issue before you go to impeachment. You have to work with the House Judiciary Committee. So we are doing the due diligence, the hard work that has to be done to be ready for that," he said.
Jordan says Obama and other Democrats are eager to move on from the IRS investigation but he says Republicans will keep demanding accountability in order to defend the most constitutional rights.
"Remember what they did. They attacked our most fundamental liberty. Under the first amendment, we have a right to speak in a political nature against the policies of our government and not be harassed for doing so," said Jordan.
"They systematically, and for a sustained period of time, harassed people for speaking out. They violated people's first amendment free speech rights and now they think they can have this cavalier attitude about destroying and erasing tapes and not producing the documents and not disclosing and not testifying accurately. That is flat out wrong and they should be held accountable," he said.
- Congressional Republicans are headed towards summer recess in turmoil and former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli says it's because Republican leaders are acting like big-spending liberals and conservatives have had enough of it.
The House of Representatives is the scene of the latest unrest, as Rep. Mark Meadows, R-NC, filed a motion to remove House Speaker John Boehner from his leadership position. Boehner says he will not allow a vote before recess.
Things are just as intense in the Senate. Last Friday, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, called Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., a liar on the Senate floor for allegedly insisting to GOP colleagues that there was no deal with Democrats to add an amendment to the highway funding bill that would re-authorize the Export-Import Bank. That amendment was easily approved, while McConnell refused to consider amendments to defund Planned Parenthood of withhold homeland security funds from sanctuary cities.
McConnell vows to hold a separate vote to defund Planned Parenthood and the process is being fast-tracked. Nonetheless, conservatives are fed up with what they see as a GOP leadership abandoning the conservative principles they espoused last year to win the majority.
"Mitch McConnell is now an affliction upon America as majority leader," said Cuccinelli, who is now president of the Senate Conservatives Fund, which has contributed to numerous challengers to moderate or liberal incumbent Republicans.
He says the difference between the campaign rhetoric and the legislative record is as different as night and day.
"The simple measure is have they passed anything that is helpful from a conservative standpoint. Sadly, in the U.S. Senate, the answer is no," said Cuccinelli. "You literally cannot name, here at the end of July headed into the August recess, one thing that has come out of the United States Senate that conservatives can be proud of. Not one thing."
In denouncing the GOP leader, Sen. Cruz also asserted that a Senate run by McConnell is largely identical to the one run for eight years by former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D- Nev. Many on the right have suggested that statement is an exaggeration. Cuccinelli doesn't think so.
"If you just close your eyes and look at what's come out of the Senate, it wouldn't surprise you at all to learn that Harry Reid was the majority leader. If you just look at what's coming out of the Senate, President Obama, for his ranting and raving at times, has every reason to be very happy with it all," said Cuccinelli.
Not only does Cuccinelli see McConnell and other Republican leaders squandering the power they won in the midterm elections, but he says the past six months have greatly dispirited the base.
"When Republicans govern like big government Democrats, and they squash conservatives and they squash any sense of fiscal responsibility, Republican grassroots voters abandon them and get fed up and furious. They are destroying this party from the top of it," said Cuccinelli.
"As you've seen from polling, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner together are driving Republicans' view of Republican leadership into the dirt, face first, no hands to catch yourself," he added.
Cuccinelli says the proof is not only in the lack of conservative accomplishments but in the backlash aimed at those who mention it. He says Cruz was never rebutted on the facts of his allegation against McConnell but was admonished for going public.
"When did telling the truth become beneath the decorum of the Senate?" he asked.
Another concerning moment for Cuccinelli centered on McConnell attaching an amendment to the highway bill to defund Obamacare. He says it quickly became clear this wasn't a serious effort.
"Mitch McConnell said he was going to fight to pull out Obamacare root and branch. He abandoned Mike Lee's effort to support Mitch McConnell's own amendment to do that," said Cuccinelli. "He became horrified when Lee figured out a way to actually get the amendment considered as opposed to just giving Mitch McConnell credit for submitting it. So then Mitch McConnell was whipping votes against his own amendment," said Cuccinelli.
He says the conservative members are now getting hammered for trying to advance the party's stated priorities.
"They're beating up Ted Cruz for simply telling the truth. They're beating up Mike Lee for actually trying to keep promises that all of them made. God forbid we do what we said we were going to do," said Cuccinelli.
- Secretary of State John Kerry refused to tell lawmakers Tuesday that the Obama administration would abide by existing laws on Iran sanctions if Congress were to successfully torpedo the agreement.
In a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, Rep. Brad Sherman, D. Calif., pointedly asked Kerry if the administration would follow the current law if Congress were to find the two-thirds majority necessary to reject the plan.
1cI can 19t begin to answer that at this point without consulting with the president and determining what the circumstances are, 1d said Kerry, according to a report from National Review.
When Sherman followed up, Kerry said his previous response simply indicated that he would not engage in hypotheticals.
Rep. Ted Yoho, R. Fla., was alarmed by the exchange.
"I think Mr. Sherman was right on. To see the secretary of state skirting around this instead of backing up America and saying, 'Absolutely, we are going to follow the rule of law. We are going to hold Iran's feet to the fire,'" said Yoho.
The congressman says the president is clearly emboldened and has even reason to expect he can flout the law and get away with it.
"As has happened so may times in this administration, the president's got a pen and he's got a phone. He has audaciously talked about that," said Yoho.
"Why would he not do that? We in the House have never held him accountable for any of that," he added.
Yoho is also frustrated by Kerry's contention to lawmakers and in the press that Congress must approve the deal to preserve America's standing in the world.
"That's a very cheap shot. Sitting on Foreign Affairs and having the ability to talk to dignitaries and ambassadors from all over the world, we've already lost our credibility in the world," said Yoho. I've talked to people from a lot of different countries. The credibility of the United States is at the lowest point they've ever seen it. Our allies don't know if they can trust us and our enemies don't really fear or respect us."
Tuesday's hearing also focused on recently revealed side deals that the Obama administration did not reveal to Congress. Last week, Sen. Tom Cotton, R. Ark., and Rep. Mike Pompeo, R. Kansas, reported the deal gives the International Atomic Energy Agency latitude to negotiate with Iran for the right to inspect suspected nuclear facilities without Congress having the opportunity to review the concessions made by inspectors.
Yoho says the explanations from Kerry and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz were less than satisfactory to him.
"When they were asked about that they first disputed them. Now they're owning up that there are some side deals. [Rep. Ron] DeSantis asked if we were going to get the information. John Kerry said, 'We'll give you a briefing on it.' I don't want a briefing. I want the information that's in the deal so that we can make an intelligent decision on whether or not this a bad deal," said Yoho.
To be sure, Yoho is already convinced this is a terrible deal.
"I don't need that information to tell me it's a bad deal because with what I know now, it is a bad deal other than for Iran," said Yoho, who says a country music song sums up this deal.
"It reminds me of that country song by Jerry Reed, 'She Got the Gold Mine (I Got the Shaft).' They get to export their oil. They get to export their gold. They're paving a road to nuclear weapons. In economic development, they're getting released of $100-$115 billion in sanctions, which equates to about $60-$70 billion that they get to use now. We get to import Persian rugs, dates and nuts," said Yoho.
As bad as the terms of the deal look to Yoho, he says the most offensive part of the deal is that the United States considered the terrorism-sponsoring regime in Iran worthy of serious negotiations.
"Guess who you're dealing with? You're dealing with a country that, since 1979, has got a lot of American blood on their hands. If you look at all the soldiers that were killed or harmed in Afghanistan or Iraq, seventy percent of those came from IED's. Ninety percent of those were manufactured by Iran," said Yoho.
As the vote on the Iran draws closer, the congressman says lawmakers of all political persuasions would be wise to heed the words of former President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who served as commander-in-chief near the dawn of the nuclear age.
"President Eisenhower said back in the '50s that if a country's nuclear intentions are peaceful, they're out in the open and everybody knows about it. If they're in secrecy and done in the heat of the night and hidden, those are only done for producing weapons," he said.
- A key government agency says the landmark Civil Rights Act forbids employers from firing or refusing to hire people based on their sexual orientation, a ruling critics say has no basis in law and threatens to erode our most basic liberties.
On July 16, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which bans discrimination based on biological sex, also ought to apply to sexual orientation. The decision follows a 2012 ruling that extended similar protections to transgender employees and applicants. The only exception is extended to business with fifteen or fewer employees.
"This ruling is absolutely absurd," said Liberty Counsel Chairman Mathew Staver. "It's certainly not based upon the statute and so this is lawlessness in the process. This is an activist agency dominated by appointments from President Barack Obama that has a homosexual agenda that trumps not only Title VII and any other statutory law but even the first amendment."
Staver says there is no rational way to conclude members of Congress in 1964 intended the Civil Rights Act to cover sexual orientation.
"Title VII is what Congress said it is and what Congress said it is is very specific. It's about sex discrimination. That's whether you're male or female, not whether you're engaging in a certain kind of sexual behavior," he said.
"They're not trying to protect a pedophile or a homosexual or a transsexual or a pederast or someone else that has some other sexual fetish or abnormal activity. They're trying to deal with the difference between a male and a female," said Staver, who says the EEOC is ignoring the law to advance its agenda.
"This is just three people pretending to have authority which they don't. Their authority has to interpret the federal Title VII. Title VII does not include homosexuality or any other kind of sexually aberrant behavior," he said.
What will be the impact on the workplace? Staver contends that if employees keep their sex lives to themselves, most working environments would remain much as they are today.
"Most people are not going to tell someone that they can't work for them if they're doing the job and they're not pushing their sexual activity into the face of other individuals. They're not going to inquire about what they do when they're not at the workplace in most situations," he said.
The problem, says Staver, is that homosexuals often call attention to themselves because their sexual orientation is critical to their overall identity.
"They're not content just having this as something that they do outside of the workplace. No, this is part of who they want you to understand they are. It is front and center. It is a very sexualized culture," said Staver. "They bring that sexualized culture into the workplace. They talk about it. They put it into your face," said Staver.
There are no exceptions in the EEOC decision for churches or faith-based organizations and Staver complaints based on religious freedom will fall on deaf ears.
"If you're relying upon the EEOC, there is no religious freedom protection. In fact the the head of the EEOC appointed by President Obama, Chai Feldblum, says that if there is a collision between homosexual rights and the first amendment free exercise of religion, you would think that the first amendment wins. She says no. Homosexual rights win," said Staver.
What options does this leave employers seeking greater freedom in their hiring? Staver says the time for civil disobedience is here.
"We're entering into a lawless phase. The 3-2 decision by the EEOC is an example. The 5-4 opinion by the Supreme Court on marriage is another example. When we come to a lawless phase, at some point in time we just have to resist and say, 'We're not going to allow three people on the EEOC or five people on the Supreme Court to destroy this religious mission and ministry. We're not going to allow it and we've got to push back," said Staver.
In fact, Staver believes the failure to push back now and over the long haul will put our our most cherished liberties in peril.
"We've come to a different place in our history. We've come to a place of revolution, where we need to revolt against this tyranny of a few people who, despite what the Constitution and the courts' precedents say and despite what natural law and the Bible says, they come out with this opinion," he said.
"They expect 320 million Americans to walk like the Pied Piper and follow them over the cliff. If that's what happens, then God help us, because we've lost our country. We've lost our liberty," said Staver.