CNN's GUT CHECK | for May 15, 2013 | 5 p.m.
- n. a pause to assess the state, progress or condition of the political news cycle
BREAKING: First reported on CNN: White House releases 100 pages of Benghazi e-mails… The White House released more than 100 pages of e-mails on Wednesday in a bid to quell critics who say President Barack Obama and his aides played politics with national security following the deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. The exchanges detailing discussions between top Obama administration officials from multiple agencies suggest the CIA took the lead in developing talking points to describe the attack last September 11 that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. – Jake Tapper
TESTY: Attorney General Eric Holder and Republican Rep. Darrell Issa of California, two men who have locked horns before, clashed in a House Judiciary hearing Wednesday over the Obama administration’s nomination for secretary of Labor, Thomas Perez. After Issa accused the Department of Justice of deliberatively trying to withhold information, the attorney general immediately interrupted him. “No, I am not going to stop talking now,” Holder said. “You have characterized something as something that goes to the integrity of people at the Justice Department. It is inappropriate and is too consistent with the way in which you conduct yourself as a member of Congress. It is unacceptable and it is shameful,” Holder said.
MARKET WATCH: Dow and S&P continue record run, adding 0.4% and 0.5% to close at new highs. NASDAQ gains 0.3%.
On this day in history, what government agency was established and was casually called "the people's department" by the president?
Guantanamo Bay is in a state of peril.
The daily life at the U.S. prison camp – both for the 160-plus inmates and the American troops who guard them – is horrifying, according to CNN’s Chris Lawrence, who is at the prison camp this week.
Conditions for the inmates: More than half have been approved for transfers out, but languish as the Obama administration and Congress battle over whether to shut down the facility. A handful are facing trial before military commissions, a process that has been criticized as both inefficient and unfair.
“The commissions are a joke,” inmate Muhammad Rahim al-Afghani wrote to his lawyer in March. “If you lose you go to prison for life. If you win, you're held indefinately (sic) for life.”
More than half are on hunger strikes. Some will take liquid nutritional supplements, but about 30 are being force-fed - a practice condemned by human rights groups and the American Medical Association. The military has brought in additional medical staff to manage the protest.
Conditions for the guards: “They use extremely vulgar language towards females, and I've had a lot of experience with that, unfortunately,” one young woman who serves as a guard there told Lawrence. “Especially Caucasian females - they do not like us at all.”
In Guantanamo, the prisoners call her a bitch. A whore. A slut. But worse than the name-calling is what the guards call "splashing" - flinging urine or feces on the guards. It happens to someone "every single day" for the last month and a half, she said.
The walls and floors are quickly scrubbed down, but bits of feces are still visible stuck to the foam ceiling tiles in the units. The young guard said those “splashed” - and she's been among them - are sent to the camp hospital, notified of any diseases their assailant may carry, have their blood tested – “and then you go right back to work.”
See more of Lawrence’s reporting on Guantanamo Bay tonight at 5 p.m. ET on the Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer and Erin Burnett Out Front at 7 p.m. ET.
Did you miss it?
Leading CNNPolitics: Source: Two 'rogue' workers principally behind IRS targeting of conservatives
Acting Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Steven Miller has said his agency has pinpointed two "rogue" employees in the agency's Cincinnati office as being principally responsible for "overly aggressive" handling of tea party requests for tax-exempt status over the past two years, a congressional source told CNN today. – Dana Bash and Tom Cohen
Leading CNN Opinion: With IRS defanged, politics can run rampant
One of the most perverse results of the IRS's lame, overzealous - and possibly criminal - behavior in looking into the tax-exempt applications of assorted advocacy groups is this: They're a lot safer from scrutiny today than they were yesterday. – Gloria Borger
Leading Drudge: I Was Not Involved
“There's been a lot of criticism. The head of the RNC asked for my resignation. I was not the person involved in that decision. But be that as it may, I was recused in that matter as I described in a press conference held yesterday the decision issued the subpoena was made by the people involved in the case.”
Leading HuffPo: Heads Must Roll
The nation's top two Republican leaders suggested Wednesday that criminal acts were likely committed by the Internal Revenue Service in its apparent targeting of tea party groups that were seeking tax-exempt status from the agency. Their comments come after the release of an inspector general report that found the tax collectors improperly singled out the groups who were applying to be "social welfare" groups under the tax code's 501(c)4 provisions, largely because of ineffective management. – Michael McAuliff and Sabrina Siddiqui
Leading Politico: West Wing schooled on scandal
No White House could have completely prepared for the bad news that slammed into the West Wing in the last week, but President Barack Obama’s team has been handcuffed as never before — by lousy luck, fear of making a big mistake, and a shortage of players in key positions. – Glenn Thursh
Leading The New York Times: Under Fire, White House Pushes to Revive ‘Media Shield’ Bill
Criticized over the seizure of journalists’ phone records, the administration is pushing legislation that would provide greater protections to reporters from penalties for refusing to identify sources. – Charlie Savage
The political bites of the day
– Boehner on IRS: ‘Clearly someone violated the law’ –
HOUSE SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER AT A CAPITOL HILL NEWS CONFERENCE: “There are laws in place to prevent this type of abuse. Someone made a conscious decision to harass and hold up these requests for tax exempt status. I think we need to know who they are, whether they violated the law. Clearly someone violated the law.
– Obama to meet with Treasury on IRS –
PRESS SECRETARY JAY CARNEY AT THE WHITE HOUSE PRESS BRIEFING: “He (President Barack Obama) will be meeting with Treasury Department officials later today to talk about the next steps that he hopes will be taken to achieve the things that I just said, making sure that people are held accountable for their conduct, for their activities, and that the steps necessary are - the necessary steps are taken to ensure that this does not happen again. … The president feels very strongly about this and that he will - he wants to see that - that - that the actions taken, as revealed by the treasury report, that are inappropriate, are met with consequences.”
– Holder pledges national investigation –
REPUBLICAN REP. LAMAR SMITH OF TEXAS AT A HOUSE JUDICIARY HEARING: Is your investigation going to be beyond Cincinnati, beyond Ohio? Is it going to be a national investigation that includes Washington DC as well and includes any allegations wherever they might occur?
ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER: Yes it would. The facts will take us wherever they take us. They will not be only one city. We will go wherever the facts lead us.
– Obama honors police, first responders –
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA AT THE NATIONAL PEACE OFFICERS’ MEMORIAL SERVICE: “The brave officers we gather to remember today devoted themselves so fully to others, to serve and to protect others, that in the process they were willing to give their lives. And so today, let us not remember them just for how they died, but also for how they lived.”
What stopped us in 140 characters or less
TRIVIA ANSWER from @DanMericaCNN
One-hundred and fifty-one years ago today, the Department of Agriculture was formed by President Abraham Lincoln. Initially, the head of the USDA was only a commissioner, not a cabinet level appointee.
Two years later, during his 1864 State of the Union address, Lincoln heralded the establishment of the Ag Department.
"The Agricultural Department, under the supervision of its present energetic and faithful head, is rapidly commending itself to the great and vital interest it was created to advance," Lincoln said. "It is precisely the people's Department, in which they feel more directly concerned that in any other. I commend it to the continued attention and fostering care of Congress."
The Department of Agriculture, at the time was established, represented a majority of the economy in the United States. Today, that number had fallen dramatically. According to the 2011 GDP, only 1% of the American economy is agriculture.
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