That “Reply All” moment:
A senior communications aide to Attorney General Eric Holder seemingly called House oversight committee chairman Darrell Issa’s staff by accident and asked for their help spinning new revelations about the IRS scandal, Issa said in a September 8 letter to Holder.
The aide, Brian Fallon, is a former senior aide to Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and a well-known personality on Capitol Hill. The letter describes Fallon as “audibly shaken” when he realizes his request to leak documents to help get ahead of news stories about them was mistakenly made to the very office he was seeking to undermine. Issa believes the call was intended to be made to Democratic Rep. Elijah Cumming’s staff, the ranking member on the oversight panel, the letter said.
According to the letter, Fallon – who is not named in the letter but confirmed he made the call – asked if the aides could release the IRS scandal documents to “selected reporters” to give Fallon an “opportunity to comment publicly on it.”
Fallon explained to Issa aides that the Justice Department’s Office of Legislative Affairs had not permitted him to release the documents to the public and he wanted to get ahead of the story “before the Majority” – meaning Issa – could share it, according to the letter.
Issa aides – who had placed the call on speakerphone – were “caught off guard by the unusual nature of the call and the odd request” and asked Fallon to “e-mail the material for evaluation.”
“At this point,” Fallon “abruptly placed the call on hold for approximately three minutes.” When Fallon returned to the call, “he was audibly shaken. He immediately stated that there was a ‘change in plans’ and that there would be no effort” by DOJ to release the material early.
Coupla observations. One, Chuck Schumer, Fallon’s ex-boss, was one of the chief cheerleaders of the IRS attack squad:
Schumer was the author of the 2010 Disclose Act that failed to make it through Congress but would have required the disclosure of corporate donors to tax-exempt organizations, and membership and donor lists of the groups running “issue” ads.
“The bill was designed to embarrass companies,” Schumer admitted, and its “deterrent effect should not be underestimated.”
Advocating the use of government power to harass and intimidate political opponents is nothing new to Schumer. Along with Democratic Sens. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Tom Udall of New Mexico and Al Franken of Minnesota, he sent a similar letter to IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman in February 2012 asking the IRS to investigate 12 conservative groups he accused of violating their tax-exempt status and engaging in coordinated political activity.
So, Fallon’s heritage on the issue is well-established.
Two, planting questions and stories is tried and true IRS methodology:
The first revelation that the IRS was targeting Tea Party groups came in a planted question during a lawyers’ conference earlier this month, the attorney who asked the question confirmed Saturday with Fox News.
On Saturday, Celia Roady — the lawyer who asked the question of IRS official Lois Lerner at the May 10 American Bar Association conference — issues the following statement to Fox:
“On May 9, I received a call from Lois Lerner, who told me that she wanted to address an issue after her prepared remarks … and asked if I would pose a question to her after her remarks. I agreed to do so.…We had no discussion thereafter on the topic of the question, nor had we spoken about any of this before I received her call. She did not tell me, and I did not know, how she would answer the question.”
So, the IRS has been spinning this scandal since before it broke.
In the letter, Issa told Holder the phone call suggests ongoing coordination between DOJ aides and Cummings’ staff to undermine oversight committee investigations.
“It strains credulity to believe that the Department would seek to begin to improve relations via a telephone call between two individuals who had never spoken to each other before at 5:01pm on a Friday afternoon at the end of a District Work Period in the waning days of the 113th Congress,” Issa wrote.
Quite. Just to recap what you can barely believe is actually happening: A former aide to a hyper-partisan Democrat Senator, now working for Eric Holder’s Justice Department, has been regularly conspiring with the senior Democrat on the House Oversight Committee to suppress, spin, and otherwise confound the investigation into IRS voter suppression. And we found out about it because the apparatchik hit Redial to the wrong number.
Hey, they nabbed Al Capone for tax evasion. Justice isn’t always divine or swift.
Silly BTL, “suppress, spin, and otherwise confound” is this regime’s motto!
The head investigator charged with overseeing the Department of Justice testified Tuesday that various government agencies have repeatedly stymied his investigation efforts, and have done so in direct violation of federal law.
Michael E. Horowitz, Inspector General of the Department of Justice, was testifying before the House Judiciary Committee hearing on investigative access to government information.
“Since 2010 and 2011,” he said. “The FBI and some other Department components have not read Section 6(a) of the IG Act as giving my Office access to all records in their possession and therefore have refused our requests for various types of Department records. As a result, a number of our reviews have been significantly impeded.”
I highlighted that part to make sure you understand that the Inspector General of the Department of Justice forks for…wait for it, the Department of Justice!
Inspectors general are independent investigative officers whose job is to ensure that government agencies are not violating the law or engaging in fraudulent behavior. In August of this year, nearly 50 inspectors general signed a letter to Congress alerting politicians to “the serious limitations on access to records that have recently impeded the work of Inspectors General at the Peace Corps, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Justice.”
These officers “faced restrictions on their access to certain records available to their agencies that were needed to perform their oversight work in critical areas,” the letter explained. “Limiting access in this manner is inconsistent with the IG Act [the 1978 law that created the inspector general offices], at odds with the independence of Inspectors General, and risks leaving the agencies insulated from scrutiny and unacceptably vulnerable to mismanagement and misconduct – the very problems that our offices were established to review and that the American people expect us to be able to address.”
The self-styled “most transparent administration evah”™ couldn’t be more obscure and closeted. Big surprise.