The Obama administration is on defense dealing with the fallout from three separate controversies: the IRS targeting of conservative groups, fallout from the September attack in Benghazi, and the Justice Department seizing Associated Press phone records.
“Admittedly it’s hard to follow all these scandals or screw-ups, however we ultimately characterize them, between IRS, the Associated Press, Health and Human Services [and] Benghazi,” said Congressman Todd Young, an Indiana Republican on the Ways and Means Committee.
Friday, at a House hearing, Young and his colleagues will question the acting IRS chief Steven Miller about the agency targeting tea party groups for increased scrutiny. For now, he’s not sure if a special prosecutor is necessary, although the Republican Governor’s Association is already calling for one. Young wants to know if someone directed the extra scrutiny or if this is a spontaneous response from the Cincinnati field office. The Indiana Congressman will also question the IRS chief about timing.
“Who knew what and when did they know it?” Young asked on Jansing & Co. “We need to get to the bottom of that.”
The White House is also dealing with the fallout from a Justice Department investigation. The Associated Press reports dozens of journalists had their phone records secretly collected. In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, the AP CEO writes it was a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” and “there can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications”.
Obama Administration Press Secretary Jay Carney referred questions on the scandal to the Department of Justice.
“Other than press reports, we have no knowledge of any attempt by the Justice Department to seek phone records of the AP. We are not involved in decisions made in connection with criminal investigations, as those matters are handled independently by the Justice Department,” said Carney in a statement released Monday evening.
The AP story, along with the IRS incident and continued interest in what happened in Benghazi, led some to ask if the White House has a crisis management problem.
“The President has to be asking himself, am I surrounded by the right people? Do I have people on my team who really are effective crisis managers?” said Ron Fournier from National Journal on Jansing & Co.
“I don’t see how it can’t, at the least, be a major distraction,” said Lynn Sweet, Chicago Sun-Times.