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“There’s Something About Darrell”: Issa Praises Waxman For Ideas Issa Opposed

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), one of the most effective federal legislators in a generation, announced he will retire at the end of this term. House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), a frequent sparring partner of Waxman, issued a nice statement honoring his fellow Californian’s “long and distinguished career.”

“While I didn’t always agree with Chairman Waxman on matters of both policy and oversight tactics, his tenure helming the Committee set important precedents and innovated new investigative tools such as the use of subpoenas for closed-door depositions.

“A number issues [Waxman] doggedly began to follow during his two years as Chairman such as the use of the White House Office of Political Affairs to advance partisan political agendas with taxpayer funds, the over-classification and pseudo-classification of information to hide embarrassing government blunders, and the problematic use of non-official e-mail accounts for official government business remain on the Committee’s agenda today.”

It is, to be sure, a nice gesture when a member from one party extends best wishes to a member from the other party.

But there’s something about Issa’s praise for Waxman’s investigations that seems odd.

In his press release, note that Issa expressed admiration for some specific efforts launched by Waxman during his two-year tenure as chairman of the House Oversight Committee, including the “use of the White House Office of Political Affairs to advance partisan political agendas with taxpayer funds” and “the problematic use of non-official e-mail accounts for official government business.”

Issa’s not wrong about the merit of Waxman’s efforts during the final two years of the Bush/Cheney presidency, but I was following the Oversight Committee pretty closely at the time and I recall a Republican member of the panel expressing outrage that Waxman would dare launch these investigations.

I believe the member’s name was Darrell Issa.

On the former, Bush’s Office of Political Affairs, as led by Karl Rove, engaged in alleged misconduct over and over again. Investigators later reported that Bush’s political office, in one of the era’s lesser-appreciated scandals, engaged in “a systematic misuse of federal resources.”

When Waxman began looking into this in 2007, Issa not only opposed congressional subpoenas intended to get to the bottom of the story, the Republican also rejected the very idea that there was anything untoward about a White House political office using taxpayer money for partisan purposes since Congress does the same thing. “It’s a little bit of hubris that one body can’t do something without the other body pretending that we don’t do what we do,” he said at the time.

And yet, now Issa is praising Waxman for launching the investigation Issa opposed.

As for using non-official e-mail accounts for official government business, when Waxman began looking into this in 2008, Issa could barely contain his disgust, accusing the committee of becoming a “Peeping Tom.”

“Mr. Chairman,” Issa said at the time to Waxman, “I think what you are doing is going to prove in retrospect to be shameful.”

So much for that idea.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, January 31, 2014

February 1, 2014 Posted by | Darrell Issa, Henry Waxman | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“One Track Delusional Minds”: GOP Can’t Take Its Eyes Off Benghazi

A government-shutdown deadline is 12 days away, and Congress also needs to tackle a debt-ceiling increase, the farm bill, immigration, and a series of other pending nominations and pieces of legislation. Naturally, then, House Republicans remain preoccupied with Benghazi questions that have already been answered.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) slammed the State Department Wednesday for not firing anyone in relation to the terror attack in Benghazi, Libya.

“We’re here today because, at the end of the day, nobody was held accountable,” Royce told Patrick Kennedy, the under secretary of State for management. “Reassignment just doesn’t cut it in terms of addressing that issue.”

Kennedy tried to explain that four State Department officials were already relieved of their senior positions, but Republicans’ enduring outrage remained unaffected.

Indeed, GOP lawmakers will be able to keep their focus on Benghazi — and presumably send out more fundraising letters about how they’re “keeping the ‘scandal’ alive” — because this was one of only three Benghazi hearings House Republicans have scheduled this week.

Imagine what would be possible if GOP lawmakers invested a small fraction of these energies in actual governing.

Since that’s apparently not going to happen, let’s also note that the House Oversight Committee has finally released the full transcripts of the testimony lawmakers heard from Ambassador Thomas Pickering (pdf) and former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Admiral Mike Mullen (pdf).

And why is that important? I’m glad you asked.

Soon after the attack that left four Americans dead in Benghazi, Pickering and Mullen co-chaired an independent Accountability Review Board to scrutinize what transpired in great detail. When the House Oversight Committee launched a series of hearings, both men told Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) they’d be happy to answer lawmakers’ questions.

That proved to be difficult. Issa claimed that these officials “refused to come before our committee,” but the congressman was lying. Issa eventually said Pickering and Mullen could testify, but only in secret, behind closed doors, so the public couldn’t hear their remarks.

Sure, Issa held a variety of public hearings in the hopes of generating headlines, but when it came time to hear from the two officials who oversaw an independent investigation — officials with experience in the Reagan and Bush administrations — the California Republican was afraid to let Americans hear from them. I’ll leave it to you to speculate why.

But in time, Pickering and Mullen did appear, and after months of delays from Issa, their testimony is now available for public review. Why did the committee chairman delay the release of the transcripts for months? Probably because Pickering and Mullen reject and thoroughly discredit every wild-eyed theory Issa and his fellow Republicans continue to push in the hopes of creating a political controversy where one does not exist.

I realize this may seem like a dog-bites-man story — “credible, independent voices disprove right-wing conspiracy theories” isn’t front-page news — but I think it’s fair to say that if Pickering and Mullen had said anything to bolster the Republican agenda, Issa would have released the transcripts a long time ago, and it would have been a huge story.

The political media establishment shouldn’t be in the habit of saying the only developments that are newsworthy are the ones that reaffirm preferred GOP narratives.


By: Steve Benen, The Madow Blog, September 18, 2013

September 19, 2013 Posted by | Benghazi, GOP | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Investigate Darrell Issa”: Or How To Apply The Chairman’s Own Methods And Style To Him

Among the many reasons that Americans hold the House of Representatives in low repute – at historically abysmal levels, in fact – is the blatantly partisan and ideological misconduct of so many committee chairs. Without any evident embarrassment these mighty politicians deny science, defy mathematics, and dismiss every fact that contradicts their prejudices. But bad as these chairs tend to be, none is quite as flamboyantly awful as Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the Government Oversight Committee, a special investigative panel whose latest effort to conjure scandal from nothingness at the Internal Revenue Service would provoke his removal by a responsible leadership.

As we have pointed out repeatedly in these pages, and as testimony by the IRS inspector general has since confirmed, it is now clear that right-wing groups were not targeted for exceptional scrutiny. Moreover, there was no political motive in the agency’s treatment of the Tea Party and associated groups seeking tax exemption (in many cases illegitimately).

It is now equally obvious that the behavior of Issa himself, with his attempts to skew his committee’s investigation and conceal testimony that exonerated the agency, represents the most serious wrongdoing in the supposed “IRS scandal.” But this isn’t the first time that the California Republican, who happens to be the wealthiest man in Congress, has misused the broad powers of his chairmanship. Actually, that is all he does – as he demonstrated in equally opportunistic and amateurish examinations of both the Benghazi tragedy and the “Fast and Furious” affair.

Issa’s stewardship of the House Government Reform Committee has failed even by the standards of the Republican congressional leadership, which must have hoped that he would have collected some Obama administration scalps by now. He delayed the Fast and Furious probe solely to extend it into the election year, blustered against Attorney General Eric Holder, and accomplished…nothing.

There is little hope that Speaker John Boehner, who has enough problems maintaining a semblance of authority and dignity, will question Issa’s fitness to chair this important committee. But still we are left wondering: What would become of Issa if he were subjected to the Republican style of investigation? What if the presumption of guilt, the preference for insinuation over evidence, the omission of exculpatory facts, and the promulgation of conspiratorial speculations that feature in all of Issa’s theatrical probes were applied to him?

As the richest member of Congress, Issa seems to enjoy the same veneer of respectability that great wealth has provided to many dubious figures. But his past includes several troubling encounters with law enforcement, from alleged car thefts to weapons offenses. So what would the public learn from an Issa-style investigation of Darrell Issa?

First, the committee chair would reveal the troubling findings about Issa, namely that he was arrested not once but twice for illegal weapons offenses. Worse yet, he would explain, Issa had been convicted the second time. Then he would release slightly redacted copies of court records on file in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, where Issa grew up, showing an arrest, charges of auto theft and carrying a concealed weapon only one month after his discharge from the Army in the winter of 1972. Those same records would also reveal that Issa and an older brother were both suspects in the theft of a “new red Maserati sports car” from an auto dealership, and that Issa was eventually indicted for larceny.

And then the committee might leak a second, even more damaging set of records showing that Issa had been picked up several months later on another weapons charge in Michigan, where he attended college. Police arrested him for possession of an unregistered handgun, leading ultimately to his conviction.

What we might not learn – at least not until the facts were excavated by less partisan probers – is that Issa was only 19 years old at the time; that the first set of charges in Ohio was eventually dropped by prosecutors; and that the Michigan charge was a misdemeanor, punishable by a $100 fine. Which young Issa paid.

Yet whatever Issa did as a foolish kid could be made to look quite sinister by a congressional committee chair like him, dedicated to trumping up minor irritations into major scandals. How fortunate he is that nobody in authority has ever misused the investigative power to smear him – and that those currently in authority over him have no appetite for reining in his abuses of that power.


By: Joe Conason, The National Memo, June 29, 2013

June 30, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Open Mouth, Insert Foot”: Darrell Issa Reverses Position, Refuses To Release Full Transcripts Of IRS Interviews

Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, is refusing to release the full transcripts of interviews with Internal Revenue Service agents which supposedly prove his allegation that the White House directed the IRS to target Tea Party groups.

Last week, Issa shared excerpts of the interviews, which included allegations that “Washington, D.C., wanted some cases.” As a result, Issa declared on CNN’s State of the Union that the targeting was “a problem that was coordinated in all likelihood right out of Washington headquarters — and we’re getting to proving it.”

Issa also vowed that “the whole transcript would be put out,” presumably providing the evidence that his allegations have thus far lacked.

Since then, Issa has reversed his position. In a letter to Representative Elijah Cummings (D-MD) — the ranking Democrat on the Oversight Committee, who has called on Issa to release the full transcript — Issa wrote that “if a full transcript were released, it would serve as a roadmap of the Committee’s investigation,” and called such an action “reckless.”

“It should be clear to you that the release of full interview transcripts at a point where additional witness interviews are likely would needlessly jeopardize the integrity of the investigation and hamper the Committee’s ability to get the truth,” Issa added.

Issa’s letter also explained why he thinks it was not a double standard to release a portion of the transcript on national television.

“The release of excerpts from witness interviews can serve to provide important updates to the public as the investigation progresses,” Issa wrote. “Limited releases of testimony may also serve to empower other witnesses to become whistleblowers and serve to vindicate individuals who have been subject to criticism or retaliation at the hands of their managers.”

Of course, it’s no coincidence that Issa’s limited releases strongly supported his long-held belief that President Obama is “one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times.” By contrast, the excerpts that Cummings released on Wednesday — in which a self-identified “conservative Republican” IRS manager said that he did not have “any reason to believe that anyone in the White House was involved in the decision to screen Tea Party cases” — would not encourage the type of witnesses from whom Chairman Issa wants to hear, so he would rather keep that part of the record buried for as long as possible.

Issa’s selective leaking and complete about-face on releasing the full transcripts are just the latest in a series of hyper-partisan moves that have put some of his fellow Republicans on edge. With every day, it appears more and more likely that — as an unnamed senior Republican warned Politico – Issa “could jeopardize the biggest gift handed to them in months.”


By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, June 12, 2013

June 15, 2013 Posted by | Internal Revenue Service, Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Another Fringe Activitist”: Shock-Jock Publicity Seeker Darrell Issa’s Summer Fun Already Underway

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus was on “Fox & Friends” yesterday, fielding questions about various ongoing political controversies, when he said something interesting. In reference to the chairman on the House Oversight Committee, Priebus boasted, “I’ve got a good feeling that Darrell Issa is going to have quite a summer.”

As it turns out, Issa’s summer fun is already underway.

Several top aides to Hillary Rodham Clinton, the former secretary of state, are targets of the latest subpoena for information about the drafting of talking points after the siege last fall on an American compound in Benghazi, Libya.

Representative Darrell Issa, the California Republican who is the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, wrote in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry that the Obama administration’s refusal to cooperate fully with a House investigation left him “with no alternative but to compel the State Department to produce relevant documents through a subpoena.”

What do you know, it really is 1997 all over again — a far-right chairman of the House Oversight Committee, hoping to undermine a Clinton, is needlessly sending out subpoenas over a trumped up political controversy.

The attack on the U.S. outpost in Benghazi was a deadly national security crisis, which left four Americans killed, but the effort to create a political “scandal” has run its course. Indeed, it effectively ended a couple of weeks ago with the release of internal administration emails that helped prove that the White House’s claims were accurate; there was no cover-up; and Republican accusations are without foundation in fact. It’s reached the point at which House GOP staffers are mocking their own party’s nonsense on this issue.

So why is Issa issuing subpoenas to Clinton aides anyway? Largely because, as the chair of the Republican National Committee put it, Issa is eager to “have quite a summer.”

If this seems eerily familiar, there’s a good reason for that — Issa is following in Dan Burton’s footsteps.

Remember Burton and his wildly unhealthy hatred for President Clinton?

Burton was at his most famous in the 1990’s, when he led many of the investigations against President Bill Clinton. “If I could prove 10 percent of what I believe happened, he’d [Clinton] be gone,” Burton declared in 1998. “This guy’s a scumbag. That’s why I’m after him.”

Over the last six years of Bill Clinton’s presidency, Burton led the House Government Reform Committee and unilaterally issued 1,089 subpoenas to investigate allegations of misconduct. That roughly translates to an average of a politically-inspired subpoena every other day for six consecutive years, including weekends, holidays, and congressional recesses.

Burton once held hearings — for 10 days — on the Clintons’ Christmas card list. He ended up targeting 141 different Clinton administration officials with subpoenas, including at least one instance in which Burton and his staff were so reckless, they subpoenaed the wrong person (they were looking for someone with a similar name).

Burton also fired a bullet into a “head-like object” — reportedly a melon — in his backyard to test the theory that former White House counsel Vincent Foster was murdered.

Burton, of course, wasn’t just some shock-jock or publicity-hungry provocateur; he was the chairman of a congressional committee with oversight authority over the White House. And he wielded that gavel as if he were a fringe activist with a chip on his shoulder.

The Indiana Republican has since left Congress, but his legacy remains. Indeed, his successor on the House Oversight Committee is picking up where Burton left off.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 29, 2013

May 30, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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