As of Monday, there are *four major scandals dogging the Obama administration. More than one of them have the potential to bring major officials down and dominate the news for the foreseeable future. The stories are all moving so fast that it’s difficult to keep track of them all. Here they are, in no particular order.
1. Health and Human Services soliciting funds from the health care industry for the implementation of ObamaCare. This one is “raising eyebrows,” says MarketWatch.
The Times said Sebelius obtained $10 million from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and $500,000 from H&R Block for the effort. HHS officials said that Sebelius’s efforts would continue, after first denying they were soliciting funds for the effort. But a spokesman for Sebelius said a section of the Public Health Service Act allows her to encourage others to support those working to help carry out public health activities.
Sebelius reportedly has sought donations for Enroll America, a private non-profit group that is working to get the uninsured covered under the 2010 health-care law.
“Nice company ya go there…” This activity is illegal, and marks the second known time that Sebelius has broken the law while atop HHS. The first was when she used official time to campaign for Obama’s re-election, then reimbursed the agency after the fact to paper things over. Does Sebelius get a third strike?
2. Benghazi. Four Americans died in a terrorist attack conducted by Libya’s al Qaeda branch, Ansar al-Sharia, on September 11, 2012. President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Ambassador Susan Rice all blamed the attack on a spontaneous demonstration against an obscure YouTube movie, and downplayed al Qaeda’s role. Just a few days prior to the attack , the Democratic National Convention pushed a theme that al Qaeda had been put on the run with the killing of Osama bin Laden. Talking points drafted after the attack were edited 12 times, consistently to remove references to terrorism and al Qaeda specifically. The YouTube movie never appears in the talking points, but it became the message of Clinton, Rice, and Obama through his UN speech on September 26, 2012.
Security had been deteriorating in Benghazi for months leading up to the attack. A warning published in Egypt on 9-10 proved that the attacks were not about a movie at all. Information from the field during the attack proved that it was a coordinated terrorist attack. Someone ordered U.S. special forces in Tripoli who were readying to respond to the attack to stand down. The administration continues to claim that it did not have time to marshal U.S. forces to help, but they had no idea how long the attack would last. Libya deputy chief Greg Hicks, who assumed command upon the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens, testified that he believed that the attack had turned into a hostage rescue situation when Stevens went missing. The U.S. Foreign Emergency Support Team (FEST) is designed to go from “zero to wheels up” very quickly and should have been deployed, according to Mark Thompson, acting deputy assistant secretary of state for operations — counterterrorism bureau. The Accountability Review Board appointed by Clinton to investigate Benghazi never interviewed Clinton or Thompson, and did not have stenographers present when witnesses were interviewed. Hicks and Thompson claim that State officials engaged in intimidation to silence them. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) has spent most of the Benghazi scandal running interference for the Obama administration, but after last week’s dramatic whistleblowers’ hearing is calling for more public testimony from more witnesses. More whistleblowers are reportedly considering coming forward.
3. The Department of Justice secretly obtained the phone records of 20 lines at or connected to the Associated Press. Media are fuming today over the “massive and unprecedented” grab of AP phone records.
The AP reported that the Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors dated April and May 2012, including incoming and outgoing calls, and the duration of each call, for the work and personal phone numbers of individual reporters, general AP office numbers in New York, Washington and Hartford, Conn., and the main number for AP reporters in the House of Representatives press gallery.
The sweep was evidently in response to a leak about a terrorist attack, a second jihadist underwear bombing attempt. Attorney General Eric Holder is expected to explain his agency’s actions today. Some are already calling for his resignation or firing. Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey appeared on Fox News Channel today and questioned the wide sweep of reporters’ communications, including their personal cell phones. The AP says that it was not told anything about the sweep in advance, and that it still has not been explained to them.
4. The IRS targeted conservative Tea Party groups, and Jewish groups favorable toward Israel. For about two years and through the 2012 election, the Internal Revenue Service deliberately targeted conservative, Tea Party, and anti-Obama groups, and groups with “patriot” and “constitution” in their name. The IRS demanded deep personal information of everyone involved with these groups, and was evidently building a database on them. IRS official Lois Lerner apologized for the targeting last week, and claimed that the targeting only happened in the Cincinnati office. Since then, Americans have learned that officials in Washington knew about it a year ago, and were involved. The IRS also leaked information from the groups to liberal ProPublica, according to ProPublica. President Obama claims only to have learned about it on Friday, and in the media. But Congress has asked questions off and on about it for a couple of years now. The New York Times praised the IRS for targeting conservatives in May 2012. The targeting has had a chilling effect since 2009, when Obama joked about unleashing the IRS on enemies. This scandal gets a hearing on Friday. The fact that the IRS is empowered to deal with Americans’ health care choices thanks to ObamaCare adds an additional chilling layer to this story.
Update: IRS may have targeted pro-life groups too. And there may be a new scandal brewing at the Environmental Protection Agency.
*Fast and Furious and the Pigford scandal are still lurking out there, but neither is in the headlines at the moment. Obama may have killed off Fast and Furious when he invoked executive privilege to seal off the White House’s communications with DOJ on the subject.