By Bre Payton • The Federalist
In his final few days in office, President Obama and his pals have been frantically spinning his tenure in the White House as a “scandal-free” eight years.
Just watch this exchange between CNN’s Jake Tapper and White House chief of staff Denis McDonough on Sunday in which McDonough claims the Obama administration has been free of scandal.
— CNN (@CNN) January 15, 2017
by Elizabeth Harrington • Washington Free Beacon
Director of the Office of Government Ethics Walter M. Shaub donated to President Obama before his appointment and defended Hillary Clinton’s decision to not disclose paid speeches to the Clinton Foundation while she was secretary of state.
Shaub, the head of the little-known ethics office, has been on the attack against President-elect Donald J. Trump for months.
Shaub has called Trump’s plan to sign over control of his business to his sons “meaningless,” and engaged in tweet storms from the official ethics Twitter account encouraging Trump to divest. Continue reading
Dear Vice President-Elect Pence:
It has come to our attention that a number of Departments and independent agencies are working furiously behind closed doors to bring significant, legally tenuous litigation against American business interests before January 20, 2017. Doing so will saddle the Trump Administration with having to litigate cases based on job crushing liberal legal theories. Such “midnight litigation,” particularly litigation that does not concern imminent threats to health or safety, must receive the strictest of scrutiny from the transition, and we urge the new Administration in the strongest possible terms not to treat such litigation with deference.
We have long been concerned about “midnight regulation” – regulations promulgated in the waning days of a lame duck administration. Because of this concern, Congress enacted the Congressional Review Act, which provides Congress procedural tools to disapprove expeditiously these last ditch midnight regulations. Congress, however, has no authority over litigation brought by the Executive Branch, and it will be incumbent upon the Trump Administration to decide whether to continue to pursue such cases.
President-elect Trump promised to “make American great again” and successfully argued that a rigged system has stymied growth, competitiveness and opportunity. This is due in no small measure to the Obama Administration’s war on business, which was again made apparent only days ago with the President’s executive action to ban offshore oil drilling in areas of the Artic and Atlantic Oceans. The mountains of regulations promulgated by the current Administration are a key reason economic growth has been dismally low. Litigation is another form of executive action that can have similar devastating impacts on American jobs and competitiveness and should be reviewed in the same manner that the Transition is reviewing regulations.
Should the Obama Administration bring non-routine, last minute, legally unorthodox midnight litigation, your Administration should not hesitate to withdraw immediately from that litigation. In such circumstances, the new Administration should not be constrained by notions of deference and should not support suspect legal theories that could have devastating economic effects for decades to come.
We appreciate the difficult work ahead of you and wish you the best as you continue to prepare to undo the damage of the last eight years.
Frontiers of Freedom
Americans for Tax Reform
The Honorable J. Kenneth Blackwell
Constitutional Congress, Inc.
Richard A. Viguerie
The Weyrich Lunch
National Tax Limitation Committee
Tea Party Patriots
Taxpayers Protection Alliance
C. Preston Noell III
Tradition, Family, Property, Inc.
The Last Best Hope on Earth Institute
Maryland Taxpayers Association
Chief Government Affairs Officer
Americans for Prosperity
Willes K. Lee
National Federation of Republican Assemblies
Freedom & Prosperity Caucus
Defending America Foundation
Strengthening America for All
William A. Estrada, Esq.,
Director of Federal Relations
Home School Legal Defense Association
Mat Staver, Esq.
Founder & Chairman
Property Rights Alliance
Americans for Liberty & Security
Michael J. Bowen
Coalition for a Strong America
Clyde Wayne Crews
Vice President for Policy
Competitive Enterprise Institute
Campaign for Liberty
By Josh Gerstein and Nolan D McCaskill • Politico
President Barack Obama used a pseudonym in email communications with Hillary Clinton and others, according to FBI records made public Friday.
The disclosure came as the FBI released its second batch of documents from its investigation into Clinton’s private email server during her tenure as secretary of state.
The 189 pages the bureau released includes interviews with some of Clinton’s closest aides, such as Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills; senior State Department officials; and even Marcel Lazar, better known as the Romanian hacker “Guccifer.”
In an April 5, 2016 interview with the FBI, Abedin was shown an email exchange between Clinton and Obama, but the longtime Clinton aide did not recognize the name of the sender. Continue reading
by Alexander Hendrie • Americans for Tax Reform
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen will appear before the House Judiciary Committee to defend himself against impeachment charges following his role in the Lois Lerner targeting scandal.
Koskinen was appointed to lead the IRS after promising to bring transparency and openness to the embattled agency. He has failed.
The IRS failed to search five of six possible sources of electronic media for Lois Lerner’s emails, according to documentation released by the House Oversight Committee in July 2015.
Over the course of investigations into the Lois Lerner targeting scandal, Commissioner John Koskinen repeatedly assured Congress that he would provide all of Lois Lerner’s emails. But based on testimony from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), this did not occur. The agency’s ineptness — or corruption — resulted in 24,000 Lerner emails being lost when they were “accidently” destroyed. Continue reading
by Morgan Chalfant • Washington Free Beacon
President Obama is disputing a recommendation to change the governance structure of the Department of Veterans Affairs network of hospitals, saying it would undermine the authority of bureaucrats overseeing the agency-run facilities.
The proposal was one of several included in the final report of the Commission on Care, an independent panel established by Congress to examine the VA’s hospital network after veterans were found to have died waiting for care as agency employees kept secret lists to conceal long appointment waits in 2014.
Obama sent a letter to Congress on Thursday reacting to the commission’s final report of recommendations, which the Washington Free Beacon first reported in July. While he agreed with the majority of the commission’s 18 recommendations, Obama expressed “concerns” about establishing a board of directors responsible for the overall governance of the VA health care system. Continue reading
By Peter Roff • Washington Examiner
The office of attorney general is a role that is unrivaled in government. Its occupant possesses the power to prosecute private citizens, corporations and even governments on the public’s behalf.
It is the reason that most fair-minded attorneys general maintain a semblance of nonpartisanship, generally picking cases that serve the broadest public interest instead of giving in to the quick and easy returns that come with pursuing flashy lawsuits, pandering to powerful voting blocs or chasing big paydays.
All this has changed thanks to the pioneering efforts of a Washington, D.C.-based law firm, Cohen Milstein, and firms like it, which have been aggressively courting a pool of potential new clients among the nation’s attorneys general. Critics of the practice call this a troubling trend often encouraging the pursuit of potentially lucrative but legally dicey cases they might not otherwise touch. Continue reading
by Jack Heretik • Washington Free Beacon
The State Department announced Tuesday that it has found 30 new emails from Hillary Clinton’s private server that discuss the terror attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012.
With a steady stream of new Clinton emails being publicized in recent weeks, a federal judge has ordered the review and release of Clinton’s emails to be accelerated, the Washington Examiner reported.
A judge asked the agency to speed up its review of the documents in preparation for release to Judicial Watch, the conservative-leaning group that filed the Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. Continue reading
by Jed Babbin • The American Spectator
We have become wearily accustomed to the constant flow of lies in the presidential campaign. Some are important but most are not. They have become a tiresome reminder of why so many people have decided to ignore the whole mess.
Lies in a political campaign should matter but those lies that are the basis for national security decisions — lies that are a matter of policy — can create existential dangers. The lies that President Obama has been peddling surrounding his deal with Iran on nuclear weapons are just such a case.
The website PolitiFact has gotten into the habit of naming the Lie of the Year. In 2012, when it gave the shameful title to Obama’s statement on Obamacare that “If you like your healthcare plan, you can keep it,” the label was almost enough to rouse the Republican Party to action. Continue reading
On Jan. 23, 2013, Hillary Clinton asked an infamous question about the attack on the United States Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
“What difference, at this point, does it make?” Clinton said. And Republicans have been attacking her for that line ever since.
“Why didn’t you just pick up the phone and call the survivors?” was the simple question Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., asked Clinton that day. Tuesday night at the Republican National Convention, he finally answered Clinton’s question.
“It made a difference to the young Yazidi woman I met who was captured and brutalized by ISIS barbarians, the joy of life hauntingly absent in her eyes,” Johnson said. “It made a difference to the businessmen traveling through the airports in Brussels and Istanbul, who just wanted to make it home to their family and their friends.
“It made a difference to the ordinary Americans sharing holiday cheer at a Christmas party in San Bernardino. It made a difference to the young men and women dancing on a summer night at a club in Orlando. And it made a difference to the families watching fireworks at a celebration of freedom in Nice.”
Although Johnson spent most of his speech attacking Clinton, he also attacked the Democratic foe running against him in November: former Sen. Russ Feingold.
“Even after 9/11, [Feingold] was the only senator to vote against giving law enforcement the tools they need to help stop international terror. During his 18-year Senate career, he also voted against authorizing our military 11 separate times.” He said the world is too dangerous to elect either Clinton or Feingold.
After formally winning the Republican nomination, it was Donald Trump’s night. But Johnson mentioned him only once, toward the end of his speech. “Donald Trump and Mike Pence understand that these must be America’s top priorities,” Johnson said, referring to defeating the Islamic State. “They will be strong leaders, working with Republicans in the House and Senate to achieve a goal that can unite us all: a safe, prosperous and secure America.”
By Daily Caller•
Attorneys general from a dozen Republican-led states say the Environmental Protection Agency has been dragging its feet since February on their fee waiver requests, adding to a pattern of the agency making it harder for conservatives to obtain government records.
Twelve states with Republican administrations sent a Freedom of Information Act request for records regarding EPA “sue and settle” negotiations with outside environmental groups in lawsuits. These suits led to the agency entering into consent decrees that forced more federal intervention into state environmental plans.
“Oklahoma and other states seek this information out of substantial concern with EPA’s practice because it directly results in minimizing the substantive role of the States in energy, land use and environmental regulatory programs in a manner that is contrary to the cooperative federalism structure set forth in federal law and the United States Constitution,” wrote Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt on behalf of the twelves states. “The EPA must be transparent about its actions.”
The EPA denied fee waiver requests to the twelve attorneys general and the decision was appealed by the states in March. However, the EPA has been dragging its feet, twice asking for more time to consider their appeal.
The states are especially concerned given reports that the EPA has been routinely denying fee waiver requests to conservative groups seeking government records, while granting them to environmental groups that seek to push more federal involvement in state environmental rules.
The free-market Competitive Enterprise Institute obtained documents showing that since January 2012, the EPA granted fee waivers for 92 percent of FOIA requests from major environmental groups, while the agency rejected or ignored 81 percent fee waiver requests from conservative groups.
According to the states’ February FOIA request, the EPA has entered into at least 45 settlements with environmental groups under the Clean Air Act in the last three years, forcing the agency to engage in rulemaking. When this happens, the states — which have to implement the new rules — are kept out of the process.
“Not only does EPA’s action harm and jeopardize the States’ role as a partner with EPA, but it harms the interests of the citizens of the Requesting States,” reads the FOIA request sent by Pruitt and the states in February. The EPA has also disclosed nearly $1 million in attorneys’ fees to these groups.
Earlier this year, seventeen states, including Oklahoma, pushed back against the EPA’s new proposal that would revoke existing state implementation plans that grant exemption to fines for power plants and other emitters that exceed emissions limits during times of startup, shutdown, and malfunction (SSM). The new EPA rule was the result of a legal settlement with the Sierra Club.
If the rule becomes final, emitting facilities could be fined if they have excess emissions during times currently under SSM protection.
“The startling disparity in treatment strongly suggests EPA’s actions are possibly part of a broader effort to collude with groups that share the agency’s political agenda and discriminate against states and conservative organizations,” wrote Republicans including Rep. Darrell Issa and Sens. David Vitter, Chuck Grassley and Jim Inhofe in a letter to the EPA.
“EPA is instead making environmental policy on its own and with special interest groups and then forcing the states to comply with these new policies. This is far from what Congress had in mind,” a conservative environmental lawyer close to the issue told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
In February, twelve states — Oklahoma, Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Wyoming — requested records pertaining to settlements the EPA entered into with environmental groups over state Regional Haze implementation plans.
The agency denied their request, arguing that the states did not express specific intent to disseminate the information to the public. However, the states did mention in their FOIA request that the information would be disseminated to the public. The states appealed, and the EPA has twice asked for more time to review the appeal.
If the agency doesn’t grant Oklahoma and the other eleven states’ fee waiver request by May 31, the states will act to “compel EPA’s compliance with applicable law.”
Republican senators pressed President Obama’s EPA nominee Gina McCarthy on the issue in the wake of her hearings.
“EPA can only approve State implementation plans that are consistent with the Clean Air Act and our regulations. I am committed to working with States so that more of these plans can be approved and litigation can be avoided,” McCarthy responded to a question regarding states challenging the EPA’s actions on state Regional Haze plans.
The EPA did not respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
The IRS now says it has recovered a hard drive belonging to a former top employee, months after the agency admitted it had erased the data despite the existence of a preservation order.
The hard drive belonged to the agency’s former director of transfer pricing operations at the IRS Large Business and International Division, likely a key employee involved in the agency’s controversial, taxpayer-funded hiring of elite white shoe law firm Quinn Emanuel.
Earlier this year, the IRS quietly announced it had erased this hard drive, despite a preservation order borne from a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.
Under pressure from Congressional investigators, IRS chief John Koskinen last month said that the agency had discovered a backup of the employees’ hard drive. Now, the agency has changed its story a third time, saying it has discovered the employee’s hard drive.
Given the constant feet dragging and changing stories, it is likely the IRS would never have recovered this hard drive without pressure from Congressional investigators.
While this story again proves the ineptitude of the IRS, of bigger concern to taxpayers should be the agency’s decision to hire an elite law firm to perform audits. There is no reason the agency should be hiring costly outside counsel that has zero experience protecting sensitive, confidential taxpayer data.
Unfortunately, this is exactly what happened when the agency hired elite law firm Quinn Emanuel under an initial $2.2 million contract despite the firm having never even conducted an audit.
Not only is this wasteful, it is also unnecessary. The IRS already has access to around 40,000 employees responsible for enforcement. The IRS can also turn to the office of Chief Counsel or a Department of Justice attorney, both of which have the expertise to conduct this kind of work, without risking sensitive information.
This hiring decision was described as “troubling” by a federal judge and prompted a probe by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).
Ultimately, while this decision appears to be reckless and unnecessary, it appears not to break any laws.
But regardless, the IRS should not be allowed to spend taxpayer resources on an unqualified trial law firm given the agencies record failing to safeguard taxpayer data and using its power to target taxpayers for their political beliefs.
Conservative legal group blasts agreement to withhold documents
by Lachlan Markay • Washington Free Beacon
A conservative legal group is accusing state Democratic officials of conspiring to flout public records laws in order to keep secret details of a campaign to bring racketeering charges against climate policy dissenters.
Democratic attorneys general led by New York’s Eric Schneiderman are seeking to block efforts to obtain documents about their efforts by invoking an overbroad claim to secrecy in ongoing legal proceedings, according to the Energy and Environment (E&E) Legal Institute.
“These activist AGs are trying to write themselves out from freedom of information laws their legislatures have written them into,” E&E senior legal fellow Chris Horner said in a Wednesday statement. Continue reading
Claims Obama admin misled Congress about purchase of Iranian nuclear material
by Adam Kredo • Washington Free Beacon
Congress is seeking legal remedies to block further concessions by the Obama administration to Iran, according to a leading member of the House Intelligence Committee, who told the Free Beacon that the administration has been systemically misleading Congress about the nature and scope of its giveaways to Iran.
Obama administration officials confirmed overnight that an $8.6 million deal to purchase nuclear material from Iran was functionally finalized in late April. The administration had in recent months refused to answer questions about the payment from lawmakers and journalists, claiming that the deal had not yet been finalized.
The revelation triggered condemnation from leading members of Congress as well as top nuclear experts, who linked the administration’s contradictory statements to efforts by U.S. officials to quietly promote Iran as a legitimate nuclear industry player and economic power. Continue reading
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen targets group that exposed green group coordination
by Lachlan Markay • Washington Free Beacon
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D., N.H.) is scheduled to attack the Energy and Environment Legal Institute on the Senate floor on Tuesday as part of a coordinated PR offensive against conservative and libertarian nonprofit groups.
Nineteen Senate Democrats involved in the effort were tasked with using floor speeches to attack specific groups, which they are branding as parts of a “web of denial” seeking to impede Democratic energy and environmental policies. Continue reading