May 13th, 2013
08:39 PM ET
5 years ago

Issa: IRS, Benghazi show needs for congressional oversight

(CNN) - A series of explosive headlines - from Benghazi e-mails to IRS scrutiny of conservative groups and complaints about the Justice Department looking at journalist phone records - show the Obama administration must work with Congress to improve transparency and prevent recurring controversies.

Rep. Darrell Issa, a Republican from California and chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said Monday on CNN's "The Situation Room " that he and his colleagues have full plate of concerns to look into.

"There's a lesson here: Government is hard, it's big, and it's hard to run," he told Wolf Blitzer. "Forgetting about politics, if you're going to get the bureaucracy to behave, it takes the House, the Senate and the White House working together."

Politics are tied into both the Benghazi and IRS situations.

Republicans question whether the Obama administration was attempting to cover up terrorism ahead of the November election when it said the deadly attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, last September 11 grew from a spontaneous demonstration.

Issa said administration e-mails in the days after the armed assault show that talking points provided to Congress and used by executive branch officials to explain the armed assault publicly misrepresented the U.S. government's understanding of events at the time.

But the e-mails were not provided to Issa's committee and "had we received this, we would have recognized immediately that there was a progression from truth to lie in twelve changes," he said, speaking about the number of revisions to the document.

President Barack Obama, meanwhile, asserted on Monday that "political motivations" were behind continued Republican attention to the administration's response.

Issa rejected that.

"We had a serious hearing with serious career State Department officials," he said, referring to last week's testimony from officials described by Republicans as "whistleblowers."

One of them said an independent panel that reviewed the U.S. response did not assign blame high enough up the ranks.

"At some point, claiming politics is simply the wrong approach," Issa said.

Issa also was concerned about the Internal Revenue Service's scrutiny of applications by conservative groups for non-profit status – an examination that conservatives assert was politically motivated.

The agency has said mistakes were made but that IRS agents were looking for groups whose activities may have been outside the guidelines for non-profits.

Some critics say the case smacks of the kind of dirty politics against public figures and others that was notorious in past generations.

"This could have been Martin Luther King a generation ago. This could have been the left during the Vietnam War," he said. "We have to make sure that this can't happen again."

Issa said he believes Obama's comment on Monday that he only found out about the practice through news reports. Regardless, Issa said the system is broken.

"We don't know how high it went. What we know, and this is the disturbing part ... it was discovered and stopped and it continued," he said. "And the whole time that was going on there were denials that it was going on."

He also said a complaint by attorneys for the Associated Press that the Justice Department secretly collected two months of phone records – including work, home and cell accounts - of reporters and editors as part of a leak investigation was an overreach.

Issa said had Congress done such a thing, the administration would be "outraged."

Overall, Issa said, these events show a need for the two parties and sides of Pennsylvania Avenue to cooperate.

"This transparent government hasn't understood that we serve a constructive role if they'll let us," he continued, saying Obama needs to "understand that we want to work with him on real reform. We want to work with him on helping get the bureaucracy to deliver a better product than it currently does."

Filed under: Darrell Issa • IRS • Libya
soundoff (33 Responses)
  1. HenryMiller

    What Congress needs to do is expose the abuses of the most corrupt administration since the 19th century.

    May 13, 2013 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  2. Wes

    Benghazi, IRS and now the collected phone records. The uhbama is pathetic.

    May 13, 2013 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  3. g

    why don,t the republicans work on america,s problems instead of trying to create more

    May 13, 2013 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  4. numeaning

    Was it because Eric Holder targets the Associated Press?, Was it because of a protest ?, Was it because the IRS targets the Tea Party ?, or was it because of guys out for a walk one night that decided to go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make?

    May 13, 2013 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  5. Former Republican, now an Independent

    The oversight needs to be on Issa and his taxpayer money wasting "witch hunts". Anyone who looks into Issa's past finds the record of a man who shouldn't be an elected official of any kind.

    May 13, 2013 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  6. Name willard

    Madness to let out of control IRS
    Enforce obamcare abortion doctor Gulity

    May 13, 2013 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  7. Catmandew

    Obama doesn't even know that the IRS is part of the Executive part of the government which he is the man in charge of. So that means he would have knowledge of their actions being the man in charge! Benghazi is a dead horse unfortunately it's done and the administration can't bring those folks back. I believe they will be tryin to sneak something else thru and these are all distractions.

    May 13, 2013 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  8. Parah Salin

    Que the left right bickering.

    May 13, 2013 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  9. Sam

    Congress can't even work with themselves. What makes this idiot think congress can work with other branches of government?

    May 13, 2013 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  10. Bill from GA

    " he and his colleagues have full plate of concerns to look into "

    Americans want the economy growing, with more jobs. Only conservative hacks want the next 3 years spent investigating Democrats while continuing to block all progress.

    May 13, 2013 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  11. king

    the repubs doesn't have any will to prevent other embassy attacks from overseas so i dont know what their rederic are about, because their only purpose in government is to kill it. if they ever think about getting more money for embassy security, their right winged flank will right winged them out of office. the only thing that they can talk about is the talking points after the fact. they are useless in office, and need to be kicked out so this country can go forward, because their mantra of killing the government, then blame dems when their killing the government goes array, is not what the country nor the American people needs.

    May 13, 2013 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  12. Bill from GA

    if repubs want to investigate Benghazi, why don't they look into why Ambassador Stevens was there in the first place?

    Was there even a Consulate in Benghazi, or just a Mission Outpost? ( I wonder how many Visa Requests were processed in Benghazi, or American tourists needing aid??)

    What was the CIA doing there?
    Was Ambassador Stevens in Benghazi for military purposes?
    Was he there to secure weapons, such as hand-held anti-aircraft rockets, from militants? Or to recruit fighters for Syria, as some articles claim?

    Maybe the amount of military backup needed for security, readily available, would have interfered with his mission. The repubs don't want answers to those questions, and I'm not sure the CIA wants them answered either.

    May 13, 2013 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  13. S.B. Stein

    Issa has a point that Congress is to oversee the running (keeping an eye on the checkbook). The problem is that it needs to be done in a balanced way. Issa is doing this with a clear bias.

    May 13, 2013 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  14. Nick

    Hee hee hee; ha ha ha; waaah HAA HAA HAA; Congressman Issa has a hidden talent for standup comedy! Does anyone else see the irony?

    May 13, 2013 10:44 pm at 10:44 pm |
  15. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    Issa is a wealthy crook who ran California into the ground with his witch hunt of Governor Gray Davis. He is a side show like Rush Limbaugh! The difference is that idiots actually vote for this dirt bag.

    May 14, 2013 12:26 am at 12:26 am |
  16. norma jean.

    As a Californian.... I am well aware ofDale Issa

    . Is he not aware that he might not be on a "needs to know" level with all government affairs .....I'm sure our government does not need his opinion on how it handles its problems.

    May 14, 2013 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
  17. mick

    Obama is one of the most corrupt president ever. Possibly the most actually.

    May 14, 2013 12:37 am at 12:37 am |
  18. El Lobo

    Uhuh no way, shut up darrall, congress oversight my sore tired but. that darrall is such a kidder.

    May 14, 2013 12:49 am at 12:49 am |
  19. Thomas

    Issa said administration e-mails in the days after the armed assault show that talking points provided to Congress and used by executive branch officials to explain the armed assault publicly misrepresented the U.S. government's understanding of events at the time.

    What Issa is saying is , we need more car alarms for state department officials working in conflict zones .
    If Issa had a real concern for security and accountability , don't you think he would accomplish more by not being a instigator prosecutor who's only evidence is here say ?
    To him it's only a photo opp , no real compassion to those effected.

    Issa / Cruze 2016
    Nixon / McCarthy

    May 14, 2013 12:57 am at 12:57 am |
  20. Thomas

    Mr Issa said on Meet the Press that the obama administration intimidated the CIA . At the time CIA director David Petraeus had his hands full of personal problems. Yet I find it hard to believe the CIA was intimidated by the white house.

    If any administration intimidated the NSA or CIA it was the GW Bush administration's white powder intelligence ploy given to Colin Powel by then CIA director George Tenet , to make the case to go to war with Iraq at the UN .

    Issi supported the war in Iraq and made millions on no bid military contracts for his friends in Southern California.

    May 14, 2013 01:16 am at 1:16 am |
  21. Darla (Edmonton, Canada)

    Mr. Issa ... what is your definition of "oversight"? Frankly, your definition appears to be "witch hunting" instead of ensuring that policy and procedures are followed (and revised as necessary) to ensure that the American people have faith and trust in their elected and appointed officials.

    May 14, 2013 02:02 am at 2:02 am |
  22. kmccormack

    The Bill of Rights? was rescinded sept. 12, 2001. posse comitatus.

    May 14, 2013 02:13 am at 2:13 am |
  23. Debbie

    I'm pretty tired/bored of the ongoing House Investigations but if the GOP wants to spend taxpayer time and money that way they are the majority in the House. But I implore the GOP to at the very least choose a chairman that is not a twice arrested car thief. There has got to be someone in the GOP besides Issa. Lacks credibility when the thief is the lead investigator.

    May 14, 2013 03:04 am at 3:04 am |
  24. clemvinson71

    A brief revisiting of history for the modern day republican:

    "The nine scariest words ever heard: I'm from the government and I'm here to help" – Ronald Reagan

    Government oversight only opens the door for special interest, less is waaay more.

    And for those foaming at the mouth to draw a pound of Clinton flesh (insert Lewinski joke here), remember Iran-Contra? Oliver North didn't recall, but I hope you do. That was a legitimate scandal of outrageous proportations, yet H.W. won easily two years later without having to even defend the issue. Unless you believe Bush Sr. is actually more slick than slick Willie and his cronies, you're best off calling the witchhunt off. It will yield little to no return in 2016.

    One last note: Wanna have an impact in 2016? It's the economy stupid.... pass a budget, create some jobs, and reign in special interest....

    May 14, 2013 04:17 am at 4:17 am |
  25. Dave

    Darrell Issa is a car thief and one .of the strangest oeople on the olanet

    May 14, 2013 04:36 am at 4:36 am |
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