Rep. Darrell Issa, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman, says the Department of Justice has slipped up and provided him with direct, damning evidence that it has been conspiring with Democrats to leak committee documents.
Issa said Tuesday that someone at the DOJ mistakenly dialed his office and asked his staff to leak some documents “before the Majority” (i.e., Republicans) could share it.
Such a strategy, of course, would give the DOJ and Democrats an advantage by allowing them to comment before news was officially released and figure out a strategy to blunt the public impact of any information Issa’s committee issued.
This is not the first slip up by Justice that incriminates the agency being involved in targeting of conservative groups.
In April, Issa issued a press release indicating that Richard Pilger, director of the DOJ’s election crimes branch, emailed former IRS tax-exempt division chief Lois Lerner about whether tax-exempt groups could be criminally prosecuted for lying about political activity. The email from Pilger, sent on May 8, 2013, used the phrase “I have been asked to run something by you.”
The question mark is, who is the mystery man (or woman) who told Pilger to contact Lerner, two days before she publicly apologized for the IRS’s targeting of Tea Party and other conservative groups.
Issa’s committee already has evidence that Pilger and at least one other more highly placed individual at Justice conspired with Lois Lerner to unconstitutionally harass people for their political views.
Now someone — probably the same person or people — is conspiring with Democrats on the committee investigating the IRS scandal to leak documents before the committee is ready to release them.
Richard Nixon resigned for far, far less.
“I am extremely troubled,” Issa wrote in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, “by this attempt to improperly coordinate the release of committee documents with the minority staff. This effort to preemptively release incomplete and selectively chosen information undermines the department’s claims that it is responding in good faith.”
The giveaway call came last Friday, when a Justice official reached Issa’s office by mistake and said the DOJ was sending over some documents regarding Andrew Strelka, a former IRS official who now works at the DOJ and is involved actively in the investigation. During the call, the official told Issa’s staff that the DOJ couldn’t release the documents directly but wanted the information to get to the press so that the agency could comment on it before Issa did.
The DOJ official then asked Issa’s staff if they would be willing to release the information to a select list of reporters. When Issa’s staff asked for the documents, they were put on hold, during which time the DOJ official must have realized what a whopping big mistake he had just made. According to Issa, when the DOJ official came back on the line, his voice was shaky and the plans had suddenly changed and there should be no early release of the documents.
The DOJ later claimed the phone call was not a mistake but an effort to develop a closer working relationship with Republicans, a claim Issa dismisses.
Issa said the phone call is proof that committee Democrats and the Obama Administration are working to “obfuscate and prejudice the committee’s work through under-the-table coordination.”
It’s also clear evidence that there are members of the media who are colluding with the Administration and key Democrats to twist this ongoing story. So-called journalists will claim that they will just print any good news story that comes their way, but there are plenty of widely read editors and reporters who get their stories by cozying up to politicians from their preferred political party and basically acting as an extended PR department.
Issa and the Republicans investigating this scandal need to follow it all the way to the top, which I’m betting will be inside the White House. And along the way, he should look into legal means of getting to those reporters who are on the take from the Administration — aiding and abetting, perhaps?
It’s important that Americans have an honest and transparent government, but it’s also important that they be able to get accurate and truthful information from the press — something that doesn’t occur very often.