July 23, 2014

Some ‘Beneficiaries’ Of Export-Import Bank Oppose Re-Authorization

Business support for the Export-Import Bank of the United States is not universal, even among companies that have taken advantage of Ex-Im financing.

Ron Conry, the owner of Tallahassee-based Verdicorp, recently joined a growing chorus of business leaders opposing re-authorization of the bank, according to the Tallahassee Democrat.

Verdicorp, which sells heating and air conditioning systems, had secured export insurance from Ex-Im once in the past, but Conry said he does not plan to use the bank again.

Conry also criticized Ex-Im for its preferential treatment of large companies, saying, “If you send them aircraft, they’re very good… but for smaller companies, it’s useless.” Ex-Im awarded 82 percent of all its FY 2012 loan guarantees to customers of Boeing.

Similar concerns were voiced by Lee Moak, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, in a letter to members of Congress earlier this month. Although it stops short of opposing re-authorization, the letter does ask Congress to institute reforms designed to eliminate competitive disadvantages faced by domestic airlines due to Ex-Im financing of foreign competitors.

Specifically, it requests that Congress ban Ex-Im from financing aircraft purchases for companies that are owned by, or receive backing from, foreign governments.

Conry’s echoes Edmund Schweitzer III, whose Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories has been cited as an example of why Ex-Im is necesary. In a letter to the editor of the Spokesman-Review, however, Schweitzer claimed that Ex-Im is not financially necessary. He added that without Ex-Im, “buyers and sellers would find attractive commercial options unencumbered by politics and special interests.”

Opposition to the bank on the part of companies like Verdicorp and SEL, which ostensibly benefit from Ex-Im financing, contrasts sharply with lobbying efforts undertaken on the bank’s behalf. According to the Wall Street Journal, a coalition of businesses and interest groups, including Boeing, are attempting to build support by distributing index cards to members of Congress listing all the companies that receive Ex-Im financing in each member’s district.

It’s not clear that all the listed companies necessarily support re-authorization.


July 22, 2014

Now IRS Reports EVEN MORE Computer Crashes, Doesn’t Know If Emails Still Exist

IRS Deputy Associate Chief Counsel Thomas Kane said in transcribed congressional testimony that more IRS officials experienced computer crashes, bringing the total number of crash victims to “less than 20,” and also said that the agency does not know if the lost emails are still backed up somewhere.

The new round of computer crash victims includes David Fish, who routinely corresponded with Lois Lerner, as well as Lerner subordinate Andy Megosh, Lerner’s technical adviser Justin Lowe, and Cincinnati-based agent Kimberly Kitchens. 

“You stated at the time that document was produced to Congress, the document, the white paper in Exhibit 3[the June 13 memo], that it was accurate to the best of your knowledge.  Is it still accurate?,” a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee investigator asked Kane.

“There is an issue as to whether or not there is a ‑‑ that all of the backup recovery tapes were destroyed on the 6‑month retention schedule,” Kane replied.

“So some of those backup tapes may still exist?,” the investigator asked.

“I don’t know whether they are or they aren’t, but it’s an issue that’s being looked at,” Kane said.


July 21, 2014

Hitting the boiling point over the border

It’s probably not true that a frog will allow itself to be boiled alive if only the heat is raised slowly enough, but it’s an irresistible image nonetheless.

However, the anti-borders forces — on the left and the right — have counted on such passivity among the public to incrementally erode the American people’s ability to decide who gets to move here from abroad. They have devised endless opportunities to appeal deportation decisions, prevented the implementation of needed control measures, pushed relentlessly to pierce numerical caps, and created strong incentives against government functionaries saying “no” to those who want to come. The motto over the doorway of the immigration office might as well be “It ain’t over til the alien wins.”

President Obama has turned up the heat over the past five years. Using “prosecutorial discretion” as a pretext, he has exempted the vast majority of illegal aliens from the consequences of their actions. He has formally amnestied — without legislative authorization — more than a half-million illegal immigrants who claim to have come here before age 16. He is signaling that sometime this year he will unilaterally, and illegally, amnesty half or more of the roughly 12 million illegal aliens now living in the United States.

All this generated some pushback, of course, but not enough to get the frog to jump out of the pot.

The border crisis seems to be changing that.

Tens of thousands of teenagers and families from Central America have poured into Texas, drawn by the Obama administration’s lax enforcement policies. There should be an emergency response to this unprecedented crisis, featuring military backup, tent cities, expedited processing and uncompromising rhetoric. Instead, the illegal immigrants are simply being released into the United States with a summons to appear in immigration court. The majority will ignore the summons with impunity, but it allows them to reside and travel here legally until the court date, leading to its being nicknamed a “permiso,” or permit.

The administration’s frivolous approach to the deluge is clear from a recent request for an extra $3.7 billion to address it. The majority of funds would go not to enforcement but to efforts at resettling the illegal aliens in the United States.

The response of the administration and its supporters to the breakdown of the border in South Texas seems to have finally gotten a large share of the public to see what’s happening. Even the White House’s use of illegal-alien children as human shields for its anti-sovereignty policies has not managed to allay the increasing sense of alarm across the country.

Only a few peeps of concern have emanated from Democrats in Congress, most of whom are applauding the border breakdown. Republicans haven’t been much better. Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. John McCain have taken the opportunity to repeat their support for amnesty and dramatic increases in immigration. Others at least are concerned, but have been distracted by the trivial issue of a 2008 anti-trafficking law, which does not even apply here.

In the absence of political leadership, the public is jumping out of the pot on its own. A new Gallup poll shows that immigration now tops the list of most important issues facing the country, higher than dissatisfaction with government, the economy, jobs or health care.

That concern is being expressed by ordinary citizens in their communities. Residents of Murrieta, Calif., were the first to act, blocking buses to prevent the relocation of illegal immigrants from the Texas border. Virtually the entire town of Lawrenceville, Va., came to a community meeting on relocating illegal-immigrant juveniles there, causing the federal government to back off. Similar resistance has happened in Vassar, Mich.; Oracle, Ariz.; Greece, N.Y.; Escondido, Calif.; and elsewhere.

The story isn’t over in those communities, where illegal immigrants have already been relocated. Come September, thousands of illegal-alien “minors” (many of them adults lying about their age) will be entering unprepared public schools, creating a new wave of outrage.

Perhaps one particular decision by the White House highlights how concerned the administration is about public reaction: As of now, not a single illegal-alien detainee seems to have been sent to Louisiana or Arkansas, the states bordering Texas that are closest to the site of the border deluge. This is no accident. Those two states have Democratic senators up for re-election who are vulnerable enough to lose, but who might still be able to prevail. The White House appears to have decided not to send any illegals there to avoid the potential for political damage.

This weekend, protests are planned across the country against amnesty and for immigration enforcement. Such events don’t usually draw large crowds, since for most people most of the time, immigration just isn’t that important an issue.

However, this time might be different. The anti-borders crowd has overreached, doing us a favor by revealing their true intentions. It’s time to jump.

July 18, 2014

Department of Justice: We Heard About IRS Missing Emails On The News

James Cole, deputy attorney general in the Department of Justice, testified Thursday that the DOJ heard about the destruction of IRS officials’ emails in the news, even though DOJ has formally been investigating the IRS for more than a year.

“I think we learned about it after that, from press accounts,” Cole told House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee chairman Rep. Jim Jordan at a hearing Thursday on the DOJ’s response to the wave of computer crashes at the IRS that wiped out seven different employees’ hard drives. (RELATED: Meet The Seven IRS Employees Whose Computer Crashed). DOJ has allegedly been conducting a widely-mocked investigation into the IRS conservative targeting scandal for more than a year, and recently announced that a new investigation is underway into the IRS missing emails.

“So you actually read about it in the press and nobody in the IRS ever went to the Justice Department to give you a heads-up, knowing you were conducting the investigation that some evidence may have been destroyed?,” Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis ventured.

“Not before the 13th of June,” Cole replied.

Cole confirmed at the hearing that DOJ is now “looking into” the IRS commissioner’s delayed response in the IRS emails case.

President Obama previously said that he heard about the Department of Veterans Affairs deadly wait list scandal on the news. He also originally said that he heard about the IRS targeting scandal on the news “along with most of you.”


July 17, 2014

Issa’s fight with WH reaches new peak

Rep. Darrell Issa’s (R-Calif.) fight with the White House reached a new peak on Wednesday as the administration ignored a subpoena for the director of President Obama’s Office of Political Strategy and Outreach to testify at the House Oversight Committee.

 The White House’s lack of a response was “absurd” and “deeply disturbing,” according to Issa, but he did not make any promises to take the administration to court over David Simas’s refusal to testify.

Issa said his panel would look to “clarify” whether Obama intended to invoke executive privilege to deny Simas from testifying.

 “The American people have a right to know if their tax dollars are being used for political activity,” Issa said, adding that the testimony was “critically important” to his investigation into whether the political office had violated the Hatch Act, prohibiting executive branch employees from partisan campaign activity.

 “It is deeply ironic that an administration claiming to be the most transparent ever has resisted oversight of its political office and offered less cooperation than its predecessors,” Issa said.

The chairman told Politico he wasn’t ruling out the possibility of holding Simas in contempt. 

Throughout the day, the White House and congressional Democrats needled Issa, who is nearing the end of his term at Oversight.

 “Throwing out subpoenas like candy on Halloween has not served the functioning of that committee very well,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said. “It also has, I think, understandably caused a lot of people to tune him out. And I think that’s probably a source of some frustration to him.”

 Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.), the top Democrat on Oversight, suggested the subpoena was “political theater.” He noted that Issa had issued nearly 100 subpoenas — more than the previous three chairmen combined. 

 “I noted that these unilateral subpoenas began to spike last month after Speaker [John] Boehner announced that he was taking the Benghazi investigation away from this committee and transferring it to the new select committee,” Cummings said in another shot at Issa.

 The recently re-opened West Wing political office is at the center of Issa’s latest effort to cast the Obama administration as secretive and corrupt. 

 Both sides have attempted to gain the upper hand in the dispute, pointing reporters to tangential evidence to boost their argument.

 At the White House, Earnest criticized Issa for not attending a briefing offered by administration lawyers to committee staffers on Tuesday.

 But Oversight staff pointed out that the meeting was intended to be a staff-level discussion, and was described as such in letters provided by the White House.

 Issa, meanwhile, used the hearing on Wednesday to unveil for the first time an answering machine message left by former Labor Secretary Hilda Solis in which she solicits a subordinate employee to donate to the president’s reelection campaign.

 “This makes the claim by this administration, that they are doing everything right and should be immune from oversight, all the more indefensible,” Issa said.

 The tape appeared to confirm allegations Solis had run afoul of the Hatch Act, which could create new headaches for the White House and for Solis. The Justice Department has said it was investigating the incident.

 At the White House, Earnest refused to comment, citing the ongoing criminal investigation.

 “The clear guidance that every member of this administration has received is to follow the guidelines, both the spirit and letter of the Hatch Act,” he said.

 Still, Solis’s possible violation — and her tenure in the administration — predates the reopening of the political office. Solis stepped down in January 2013.

 Republican strategists say Issa’s push could prove a politically potent tool ahead of the midterm elections.
 “Issa’s trying to show that the White House’s assertions that they’re the most transparent administration in history is nonsense,” said former GOP aide Ron Bonjean.

 “Obama’s poll numbers are so low, spiraling downward, it’s almost impossible to turn them around,” Bonjean said. “Issa subpoenaing the White House to get them to work with the committee isn’t going to help Obama.” 

Still, Bonjean said, there’s little risk for Issa drawing Obama into the spat. 

 Democrats have embraced Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) proposed lawsuit against the president, saying it underscores their narrative that the GOP wants to pick fights with the president rather than legislate.


July 16, 2014

Lie at Heart of “Immigration Reform” Exposed

“Trust” is for Con Men: The reaction to the border chaos in Texas has accomplished one thing: It has exploded the lie at the heart of current “comprehensive” immigration reform plans.  The basic structure of those plans is a swap of a) near-immediate legalization for b) increased border security in the future. The appealing idea is to let current illegals stay while taking the steps necessary to prevent further waves. The lie is the assumption that, once current illegals get their legalization, pro-immigrant activists in both parties will continue to support the second half of the bargain, the increased security.

The chaos in Texas shows they won’t.  Faced with a clear hole in the border — with a wave of tens of thousands of undocumented Central Americans crossing into the U.S. in order to get in line for hearings years from now, which they likely won’t attend while they continue to live here – pro-reform activists have scrambled, not to show their border security bona fides, but to generate arguments and outbursts designed to let the new wave stay.  As National Journal’s Major Garrett reported, when President Obama, met with activists at the White House, he proposed that he make it clear that new migrants who don’t qualify for humanitarian relief won’t get in. The activists would have none of it:

Angelica Salas, executive director of Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, piped up and warned Obama that the driving energy to reach the United States could not be stopped. “Mr. President, when my family and I came to the country, I was 5 years old, and when we were caught crossing the border and were sent back, we didn’t give up,” Salas said. “We kept trying until we made it.”

Faced with a revolt among pro-immigrant Democrats and ACLU types, Obama omitted a request for greater deportation authority from the “supplemental” package he sent to Congress (which is focused mainly on feeding, transporting and resettling the new entrants). Latino conservatives seem to agree with this retreat: ”From a policy perspective it’s bad, in terms of optics, it’s just terrible” in “the Hispanic community” for Republicans to insist on quicker deportation authority, said Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of something called the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles.

Obama’s old policy seemed to be to forget about illegals who make it into the interior of the country while increasing deportation of new arrivals at the border (an emphasis that coincidentally juiced up Obama’s deportation stats). Now, under pressure from the advocates, he’s moving to accommodate new arrivals at the border as well. Who’s left that the left wouldn’t let in? True, you could imagine migrants less appealing than those flocking into Texas–adults, none of whom had credible claims of fear or persecution.**  But activists like Angelica Salas wouldn’t want to block them either. She’d be supported in that effort by professional amnesty-pushers like Rep. Luis Gutierrez — who once at least paid lip service to enforcing the Southern border at some point, down the road, after a “comprehensive” legalization.

Likewise, does anyone think the people attending Obama’s White House meeting will accept any other new security measures that might actually succeed in blocking their co-ethnics from moving to El Norte–even as part of a “comprehensive” reform bill?***  They won’t. Once today’s illegals get their immediate “provisional” (i.e. permanent) legal status, security measures like E-Verify (computerized checks of new hires), the border fence, and exit-entry visa controls will be subject to the same sort of counterattack as Obama’s request for more deportation “flexibility.”

Overcoming those attacks will only get more difficult as the Latino population grows — and it will grow even faster once a reform bill legalizes millions more eventual voters. It’s not hard to imagine that we’re at a tipping point: Implement border security measures now, or else they will never be implemented.

And the only way to implement them is to require they be done first, before any legalization — before the activists are free to attack them with full force (lest they jeopardize the eventual amnesty prize). The other way around, the McCain-Schumer-Obama way — ‘Legalization First, Security Later’ — is a swindle in the classic tradition. Just give us our amnesty. We’ll be there for you when it’s time to appropriate for the border fence. Really we will. You can trust us! You just have to wire the money to the Nigerian prince give us what we want first.

If we didn’t spot the fraud before, we do now.

P.S.: Smart amnesty backers, like Schumer and McCain, seem to realize they need to act forcefully to stem the current border surge in order to build “trust” for a future “comprehensive” immigration bill. But we don’t need “trust” — if we structure the “comprehensive” bargain so the enforcement measures come first. It’s con men who need “trust.”


July 15, 2014

Lois Lerner’s Former FEC Colleague Has Emails Go Missing Too

The Federal Election Commission recycled the computer hard drive of April Sands — a former co-worker of Lois Lerner’s — hindering an investigation into Sands’ partisan political activities, according to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Sands resigned from the Federal Election Commission in April after she admitted to violating the Hatch Act, which bars executive branch employees from engaging in partisan political activities on federal time and at federal facilities.

The twist is that Sands also worked under Lois Lerner when the ex-IRS agent — who is currently embroiled in a scandal over the targeting of conservative political groups — worked at the FEC’s enforcement division.

In a letter to FEC chairman Lee Goodman, Oversight chairman Darrell Issa and committee member Jim Jordan laid out Sands’ partisan activities and asked for records pertaining to the recycling of her hard drive and of the agency’s records retention policies.

Sands took part in a heavily partisan online webcam discussion from FEC offices and also operated a Twitter account with the handle @ReignOfApril which were sent during Sands’ normal working hours.

One of Sands’ tweets, from June 4, 2012 read “I just don’t understand how anyone but straight white men can vote Republican. What kind of delusional rhetorical does one use?”

Sands is a black female.

“Dear every single Republican ever, When will U learn that Barack Hussein Obama is simply smarter than U? Stand down, Signed #Obama2012 #p2,” Sands wrote on May 1, 2012.

In a message fro Aug. 25, 2012, Sands called Republicans her “enemy.”

In others, Sands issued fundraising pleas on behalf of Obama. “Our #POTUS’s birthday is August 4. He’ll be 51. I’m donating $51 to give him the best birthday present ever: a second term,” she wrote on July 18, 2012.

“The bias in these messages is striking, especially for an attorney charged with the responsibility to enforce federal election laws fairly and dispassionately,” read the Oversight letter to Goodman, an Obama appointee.

The FEC’s Office of Inspector General sought to conduct a criminal investigation into Sands’ activities but were stymied when they found that the agency had recycled her computer hard drive.

“Therefore the OIG was unable to show that Ms. Sands’ solicitations and political activity were done from an FEC computer,” reads the letter.

Because of this, the U.S. attorney’s office for the District of Columbia declined criminal prosecution.

“The FEC’s failure to retain Ms. Sands’ hard drive prevented the FEC OIG from fully pursuing appropriate criminal sanctions for Ms. Sands’ admitted violation of federal law,” wrote Issa and Jordan.

“Like the IRS’s destruction of Lois Lerner’s hard drive, the FEC’s recycling of Ms. Sands’ hard drive may have also destroyed material responsive to Freedom of Information Act and congressional oversight requests,” the letter continued.

Lerner’s computer hard drive crashed in the middle of 2011, right around the time that questions were being raised over whether the IRS’s enforcement agency was targeting conservative non-profit groups while considering whether to grant them tax-exempt status.

News of the loss of Lerner’s emails was only made public last month, much to the frustration of Issa and the Oversight Committee.

Though it is unclear whether Sands and Lerner communicated after Lerner’s move to the FEC, the Oversight Committee letter points out that Lerner was known to have communicated with other FEC employees after her switch. That correspondence included the sharing of information protected by section 6103 of the tax code, the letter notes.


July 14, 2014

Obama’s ‘blank check’ rejected as border solution

Not even a week after it was offered, President Obama’s $3.7 billion plan to deal with the growing crisis along the U.S.-Mexico border appears all but dead, with Republican lawmakers Sunday decrying the administration’s “blank check” proposal and instead calling for a more targeted response centered on greater border security.

Even Texas Gov. Rick Perry, personally recruited by the president to persuade Republicans to support the measure, threw cold water on the idea. He said the president doesn’t need that much money and instead should send National Guard troops to secure the border.

The apparent defeat caps a whirlwind several days for the White House, which responded to increasing calls for action — and criticism of Mr. Obama for his decision not to visit the border while fundraising in Texas last week — by seeking more spending.

Republican leaders such as Mr. Perry also have put the request into a larger context, noting that Mr. Obama allowed the problem to worsen over the past five years, then responded to public pressure by demanding that Congress pass his supplemental spending plan immediately.

“It is a very large amount of money, and as you analyze it, very little of it is for border security. And I think until he gets realistic about the problem and how you deal with the problem — and it is a border security issue. And we’ve got a track record now of five-plus years of him disregarding what’s going on on the border,” Mr. Perry said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“So here’s his opportunity to truly lead. Don’t blame this on anyone. Be a leader. Lay out a plan. And I will suggest to you, actually, the president doesn’t have to have this big amount of money,” the Texan said.

After meeting with Mr. Perry last week, the president personally pitched the $3.7 billion plan during a hastily arranged press conference in Dallas.

The money would be used for detaining and deporting illegal immigrant families, transporting unaccompanied children back to their home countries, greater law enforcement, housing services for children, the hiring of more immigration judges and other purposes.

In his plea, Mr. Obama suggested that the only reason for Republican opposition would be politics.

“Are folks more interested in politics or are they more interested in solving the problem? If they’re interested in solving the problem, then this can be solved. If the preference is for politics, then it won’t be solved,” he said. “This is just a very narrow issue, the supplemental, in terms of dealing with the particular problem we have right now.”

Meanwhile, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell met with dozens of governors Sunday in Nashville, Tennessee, as the administration seeks locations to host thousands of Central American children who have come to the U.S. over the past year.

Unaccompanied children from countries other than Mexico are turned over to HHS within 72 hours after U.S. authorities take them into custody.

Governors from both parties have raised serious concerns about hosting those children in their states.

“Our citizens already feel burdened by all kinds of challenges. They don’t want to see another burden come into their state,” said Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat. “However we deal with the humanitarian aspects of this, we’ve got to do it in the most cost-effective way possible.”

While the administration looks for support from governors, backing for the supplemental spending plan on Capitol Hill is evaporating.

“Our view, I think, as House Republicans, is, look, we’re not going to write a blank check,” said Rep. Michael T. McCaul, Texas Republican and chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. “It’s going to be a more targeted approach, probably through the end of the fiscal year.”

Mr. McCaul also appeared on “Fox News Sunday.”

House Republicans, led by Speaker John A. Boehner, also have called for National Guard troops to patrol the border. Mr. Perry echoed those sentiments Sunday, saying such a step would act as an effective deterrent.

Rep. Mike Rogers, Michigan Republican and chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, also said Mr. Obama, whom Republicans often have criticized in recent months for unilateral use of executive authority, already has the power to send these children home.

Mr. Obama “has tools in his toolbox” and “can safely get them home” to Central America “and that’s where the president needs to start,” he told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

The White House has rejected the National Guard idea, and congressional Democrats are growing increasingly frustrated with the Republican focus on border security.

“We spend $18 billion a year on making sure that the federal government has immigration enforcement agents. That’s more than the DEA, the ATF and the FBI and all other enforcement combined. But we still have a problem, right?” Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, Illinois Democrat, said during an appearance Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

“So you can keep throwing money and talk about enforcement, enforcement, enforcement, but you’ve got to put money also into your judicial system, and you’ve got to put money and a comprehensive program that deals with the issue,” he said.


July 11, 2014

DOJ won't probe CIA-Senate spy charges

The Department of Justice has decided not to pursue accusations that the CIA spied on the Senate Intelligence Committee, nor will it investigate charges that committee staffers took classified documents from a secure CIA facility.

"The department carefully reviewed the matters referred to us and did not find sufficient evidence to warrant a criminal investigation," Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr confirmed to The Hill.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the Intelligence Committee’s chairwoman, took to the Senate floor in March and blasted the CIA, saying it had spied on her staffers conducting an investigation into the agency's rendition, detention and interrogation program during the Bush era.

The CIA, in turn, alleged that the staffers had taken unauthorized documents while conducting their investigation.

Both sides referred criminal charges against each other to the Justice Department.

Feinstein said she was "pleased" with the Justice Department's decision not to open an investigation into Intelligence Committee staff.

"I believe this is the right decision and will allow the committee to focus on the upcoming release of its report on the CIA detention and interrogation program,” she said in a statement to The Hill.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), the panel’s top Republican, said he assumed the department “did a very thorough investigation and made their decision.”

“I accept what they decided and we’ll look to see what the sergeant at arms says,” he added. The Senate sergeants at arms is conducting its own investigation into the case.

The accusations revolved around the Intelligence Committee's investigation into the "enhanced interrogation" techniques used during the George W. Bush administration.

The committee has produced a 6,600-page report on the program after clashing repeatedly with the CIA during the process. Feinstein alleged the CIA had snooped on the committee's activities at a secure facility where staffers were allowed to review highly classified cables and other documents.

The CIA countered that staffers took documents from the site that they were not supposed to have. Those documents allegedly included an internal review, conducted by former CIA Director Leon Panetta, that found the "enhanced interrogation" methods did not produce useful intelligence.

The executive summary of the report is is due to be released this year. Nearly 500 pages of executive summary is being reviewed by the CIA and the White House for redactions.

Security concerns are complicating the release of the report, however, with officials fearing the document could inflame the Arab street and put Americans in danger.

While an August release seems unlikely, putting the report out in early September might not be an option, as it would fall near the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks — a day when terrorist groups typically attempt to strike, as they did two years ago in Benghazi, Libya.

Officials have made clear the release date is a sensitive matter, as Democrats claim the report documents "shocking" brutality, including techniques that critics have labeled "torture" such as waterboarding.

Democrats on the Intelligence panel conducted the investigation, which was boycotted by Republicans, who dispute its findings. 

July 10, 2014

GOP: Lerner warned IRS employees to hide information from Congress

Just as the IRS tea party targeting scandal was erupting, Lois G. Lerner warned colleagues to “be cautious” about what information they put in emails because it could end up being turned over to Congress, according to an email message released Wednesday.

The 2013 email exchange between Ms. Lerner and fellow employees at the Internal Revenue Service also says that instant message conversations were probably never stored and weren’t checked during open-records requests — even though they also fell under the law requiring electronic records to be stored.

“I was cautioning folks about email and how we have had several occasions where Congress has asked for emails and there has been an electronic search for responsive emails — so we need to be cautious about what we say in emails,” Ms. Lerner wrote in an April 9, 2013, message.

She went on to ask whether the instant message communications were stored automatically. When a tech staffer said no but the records could be stored if employees copied them, she replied, “Perfect.”

“Why did it take us this long to get these emails? We’ve been after this for six months,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, the Ohio Republican who raised the emails with IRS Commissioner John Koskinen at a hearing Wednesday.

Mr. Jordan said the emails were part of a pattern of Ms. Lerner trying to hide her activities, following on the crash of her computer hard drive two years earlier, which erased thousands of messages.

Mr. Koskinen said he hadn’t seen the email before but questioned the connections Mr. Jordan was drawing.
“I don’t see anything in here where Lois Lerner says, ‘Wow, I got rid of my earlier emails and now I’ve got to check on it,’” the commissioner said.

Ms. Lerner’s email warning to colleagues to be careful about what they said in electronic communications issued less than two weeks after the IRS internal auditor shared a draft report with the agency accusing it of targeting tea party and other conservative groups.

A month after the email, Ms. Lerner would plant a question at a conference to reveal the scandal, just before the inspector general’s report was made public.

Ms. Lerner’s email was turned over to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee last week, more than a year after lawmakers sought it as part of their investigation into the IRS targeting.

Republicans said the email shows Ms. Lerner was aware that Congress was investigating the agency and that she was preparing to intentionally hide agency discussions from lawmakers.

Ms. Lerner’s email record has become a major scandal in and of itself after the IRS revealed that her computer hard drive crashed in 2011, causing the agency to lose thousands of her messages.

The IRS tried to recover some of the messages by asking others on the email chain to dig through their mailboxes, but the agency acknowledged that some messages may be permanently lost.

Some Republicans have questioned whether the IRS took enough steps to try to recover the emails from the hard drive in 2011.

The head of the National Archives testified to Congress that the IRS likely broke federal records laws by not storing Ms. Lerner’s emails properly.

IRS policy was to print out emails that constituted official records, but it’s unclear whether that ever happened.

Mr. Koskinen testified to Congress that he believed Ms. Lerner had printed out some emails. But Ms. Lerner’s attorney, William W. Taylor III, told the Politico online magazine that she didn’t know she was required print out emails and therefore did not do so.

On Wednesday, Mr. Taylor released a statement saying that “is not entirely accurate” and blamed a “misunderstanding.”

“During her tenure as director of Exempt Organizations, she did print out some emails, although not every one of the thousands she sent and received,” Mr. Taylor said.

“The facts are that Ms. Lerner did not destroy any records subject to the Federal Records Act, she did not cause the computer assigned to her to fail, and she made every effort to recover the files on the computer,” the lawyer said.

July 9, 2014

Is The Export-Import Bank ‘Crony Capitalism?’

Sometimes people can look at the same facts and reach opposite conclusions. That seems to be the case with Export-Import Bank re-authorization.

In an effort to build support for the embattled bank, lobbyists for business groups have begun handing out index cards to members of Congress listing all the companies that benefit from Ex-Im financing in each member’s district, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Opponents of the bank have used similar lists to deride Ex-Im as a form of “crony capitalism” — that is, taxpayer-backed assistance to politically connected companies.

Advocates of the bank say it performs a vital service for American businesses by promoting trade. According to an article by former Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin in The Huffington Post, “Ex-Im serves to level the international playing field for U.S. exporters,” by providing financing that is not available from the private sector.”

Holtz-Eakin argues, “[T]he fact that a program sends a payment to a corporation…simply cannot be prima facie evidence of crony capitalism.”

Detractors, on the other hand, point out that the vast majority of Ex-Im financing goes to large corporations such as Boeing and Caterpillar.

“Since 2012, Ex-Im made a concerted effort to broaden its reach and insulate itself from charges that it was Boeing’s Bank,” Dan Holler, communications director at Heritage Action for America, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “As a result, various lobbyists are running around Capitol Hill talking about ‘small businesses’ instead of defending the Bank’s relationship with Boeing, GE, Caterpillar, etc.”

Holler added, “Those small businesses are serving as political cover for politicians who cannot justify corporate welfare to some of America’s largest, most successful companies.”

Congress may vote on re-authorization before the August recess.


July 8, 2014

Forget Hobby Lobby—This Case Could Wreck Obamacare

A federal appeals court might be on the verge of blowing a massive hole in the foundation of Obamacare.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit is expected to rule any day now in a lawsuit that aims to block the law's insurance subsidies in more than half the country. If the challengers ultimately prevail, the Affordable Care Act's complex framework could begin to unravel as millions of people lose financial assistance.

For now, the stakes are a lot higher than the odds of success—challenges to the insurance subsidies have a 0-2 record in federal courts. But the pending D.C. Circuit ruling may be the one to break that streak, according to legal experts on both sides of the issue.

A three-judge panel heard oral arguments in the case, Halbig v. Sebelius, in March. Two judges appeared to split along partisan lines, leaving Judge Thomas Griffith, a George W. Bush appointee, as the likely swing vote. Griffith seemed during oral arguments to at least be open to the challengers' arguments, and perhaps leaning in their direction.

A ruling against the Obama administration wouldn't immediately damage the Affordable Care Act, and it wouldn't mean that the administration will ultimately lose. But it would give the challengers their first victory and ensure that the issue keeps moving through the courts.

"I … think it's going to get far more attention than it deserves," said Timothy Jost, a law professor at Washington & Lee University and a supporter of the Affordable Care Act.

Halbig aims to cut off the law's insurance subsidies in federally run insurance exchanges—subsidies that nearly 7 million people are already receiving.

Obamacare set up an insurance marketplace in each state and authorized the federal government to operate the exchanges in states that wouldn't set up their own. The exchanges were designed primarily for people who buy insurance on their own, rather than getting it through their employer, and the law provides tax subsidies to help most of those consumers cover the cost of their premiums.

The Halbig challenge argues that the Obama administration—specifically the IRS—is breaking the law by offering those tax subsidies in all 50 states. It relies mainly on the text of the statute, which authorizes subsidies in "an exchange established by the State."

That phrasing clearly restricts subsidies to state-run exchanges and does not authorize them to flow through the federally run fallback exchange, the lawsuit claims.

But the Justice Department says that reading is too narrow, and the challengers have had a hard time convincing judges that Congress intended to set up a two-tiered system.

"The plain text of the statute, the statutory structure, and the statutory purpose make clear that Congress intended to make premium tax credits available on both state-run and federally facilitated Exchanges," D.C. District Court Judge Paul Friedman wrote in his ruling on the subsidies.

Even taking the "established by the State" language into account, the Justice Department and lower courts said, the statute as a whole indicates that Congress intended to treat all exchanges equally. The federal government "stands in the shoes" of states, the Obama administration argues.

"Congress is clearly indicating that it wants a system of exchanges, nationwide, to provide affordable health care for all Americans. States have the first opportunity to establish those exchanges under this framework, but if they don't, that same exchange is created by the [Health and Human Services] secretary," Justice Department lawyer Stuart Delery said during the Halbig arguments in March.

The challengers in Halbig and its companion lawsuits say Congress wanted to use the subsidies as an incentive for states to set up their own exchanges. Friedman, though, said "there is no evidence in the legislative record that the House, the Senate, any relevant committee of either House, or any legislator ever entertained this idea."

The challengers appealed Friedman's Halbig ruling to the D.C. Circuit on an expedited timeline, which is why a decision is expected soon. Jost said the fact that the court hasn't ruled yet might be a sign that Griffith, the swing vote, wasn't ready to quickly sign on to a ruling axing the subsidies.

A district court in Virginia dismissed a nearly identical lawsuit, also saying there was no evidence that Congress intended to make subsides available only through state-run exchanges. That case, King v. Sebelius, was appealed to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, which could also issue its ruling soon.

July 7, 2014

D’Souza Declares A Strong Connection Between Hillary And Obama: It’s Saul Alinsky

Conservative filmmaker and commentator Dinesh D’Souza appeared on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday with stand-in host Martha Raddatz and Georgetown professor Michael Eric Dyson to discuss his new movie “America: Imagine The World Without Her.”

Raddatz quickly veered into asking D’Souza about the claims that he believes there is some type of left-wing conspiracy aimed at undermining America, and that President Obama and Hillary Clinton are apart of it.

“You essentially have a conspiracy theory about Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama turning this nation into a socialistic nation, something you said started when Hillary Clinton was in college,” Raddatz said to D’Souza.

“It’s not a conspiracy theory,” D’Souza quickly responded. “A lot of people think that Hillary is like Bill and say ‘We want Billary back in the White House’ because” of that.

He then explained that both Obama and Clinton have both been strongly influenced by the ideas of liberal activist Saul Alinsky, and that is the connection they share.

“The point we make in the film is ‘no’ and there actually is a bridge connecting Hillary to Barack, and that bridge is Saul Alinsky,” D’Souza added.

The filmmaker went to on to discuss how the political opinions of individuals are heavily shaped around the time they attend college and claimed that Alinsky had a direct shaping effect on Clinton’s beliefs.

“Hillary met Saul Alinsky in high school, she brought him to Welleseley College [her alma mater], and she wrote her thesis on him. So we’re not inventing a connection between Alinsky and Hillary, the connection is well-documented.”

D’Souza claims in his documentary that Alinsky was a major influence on Obama during his time as a community organizer. Alinsky was a strong advocate of community organizing and is considered a pioneer in the tactic.

Michael Eric Dyson became incredulous at the suggestion, and chimed in about D’Souza’s assertion.

“Well, here’s the reality,” Dyson began.”Yes, she has interpreted and has interpolated Alinsky, but she’s not — given the suspicions of Mr. D’Souza — somebody who’s trying to bring down American government.”

He then went on to praise Clinton for bringing Alinsky’s ideas to power.

“She’s trying to make that rare act of a politician in public — to bring ideas to bear upon the forces that prevail, that help the nation to become its best self, and to work against the demons that are bespeaking a negative impact on America,” Dyson claimed.


July 4, 2014

This Independence Day, America Again Has a Monarch

In one week, the Supreme Court told the police that if they want to examine the contents of our cellphones, whether at traffic stops or serious crime scenes, they need to get a warrant. The court told small-business owners that they needn’t pay for government-mandated insurance policies that provide for abortions for their employees, because the government is without authority to command them to do so. It told the president that he cannot wait until Saturday morning, when the Senate is not in session, to appoint high-level officials whose jobs require Senate confirmation, and then claim that they do not require Senate confirmation because the Senate was in recess. And it told selfless parents who stay home to care for their disabled children that the government may not force them to join health-care labor unions and pay union dues against their will.

Buried in these opinions was a legal memorandum sent to the president on July 16, 2010, nearly four years ago, and released last week, after two years of litigation aimed at obtaining it.

The Obama administration had successfully resisted the efforts of The New York Times and others to induce a judge to order the release of the memo by claiming that it contained state secrets. The judge who reviewed the memo concluded that it was merely a legal opinion, and yet she referred to herself as being in “Alice in Wonderland”: The laws are public, and the judicial opinions interpreting them are public, so how could a legal opinion be secret? Notwithstanding her dilemma, she accepted the government’s absurd claims, and the Times appealed.

Then the government shot itself in the foot when it surreptitiously released a portion of its secret memo to NBC News. This infuriated the panel of federal appellate judges hearing the Times’ appeal, and they ordered the entire memo released. Either it is secret or it is not, the court thundered – and the government, which is bound by the transparency commanded by the First Amendment, cannot pick and choose which parts of its work to reveal to its favorite reporters and which to conceal from the rest of us.

Last week, the administration released the memo. It consists of 40 highly blacked-out pages, the conclusion of which is that the president can order the CIA to kill Americans who are present in foreign countries and who, in the opinion of high-level government officials, pose a threat to Americans and may be difficult to arrest.

The memorandum acknowledges that it is unprecedented in its scope and novel in its conclusion, and requires predicting what courts will do if they review it. Lawyers often predict for their clients what courts will do, and thus from their predictions, extrapolate advice for their clients. But history has recorded no memo before this one that has advised a president in writing that he is free to kill an American who is not engaging in violence. The logic of the memorandum states that Americans overseas who join organizations that promote acts of terror are the equivalent of enemy soldiers in uniform in wartime. It follows, the memo argues, that because Congress has authorized the president to kill foreign terrorists when they are in foreign lands, he can kill Americans there, as well.

Conveniently, the memorandum never mentions the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, which famously commands that if the government wants the life, liberty or property of any person, it can only do so via due process. Due process requires a jury trial with its attendant constitutional protections. The only recognized exceptions to this requirement are the individual and collective right to immediate self-defense. Since natural rights trump all positive law, a cop can kill a bank robber who is shooting at him, and soldiers can kill enemy soldiers who are about to shoot at them. At the root of the recognized exceptions to the requirement of due process is the active violence of the perpetrator, such that due process is impossible and such that the threat to life is clear, present and immediate.

The persons killed pursuant to this secret memo were all Americans. One, Anwar al-Awlaki, the stated target of the memo, was not engaged in combat or armed or on a battlefield when he was killed; he did not wear the uniform of an enemy army, and he was not engaged in active violence at the time of his murder. He was in a car in the desert in Yemen driving to meet his 16-year-old American son. He had been under continuous surveillance by 12 American and four Yemeni intelligence agents for the 48 hours preceding his murder by a CIA drone. The drone that killed him was soon followed by drones that killed his son and two other Americans.

This week marks the anniversary of America’s birth as a free nation, when we fought a war against a tyrant and seceded from his kingdom. We thought we had banished tyranny from our shores. We thought we had ratified a Constitution that would compel the government to respect our natural rights. We thought we had established a society based upon the rule of law.

We were wrong. We have gone from an inherited tyrant to an elected one. I have never heard President Obama say this, but it seems logical that if he thinks he can lawfully kill Americans abroad, he also thinks he can kill us here.
Happy Fourth of July.