CNN's GUT CHECK | for May 16, 2013 | 5 p.m.
– n. a pause to assess the state, progress or condition of the political news cycle
CONFIDENCE IN HOLDER: President Barack Obama said Thursday that he has “complete confidence in Eric Holder” and that “he is an outstanding Attorney General” during a news conference. Holder has been under fire since it was learned that the Justice Department obtained phone records from Associated Press reporters as part of an investigation of classified leaks.
‘SIMPLY UNACCEPTABLE’: Obama also used his joint press conference with the Turkish prime minister to address the fact that the IRS was prejudice against tea party and conservative groups that applied for non-profit status. “My main concern is fixing a problem,” Obama said. “We will be putting in new leadership that will be able to make sure that - following up on the IG audit - that we gather up all the facts, that we hold accountable those who have taken these outrageous actions.”
CONFIRMED: The Senate approved Ernest J. Moniz’s nomination to be the new Secretary of Energy along a 97-0 vote.
MARKET WATCH: U.S. stocks end lower after mixed economic data. Dow falls 44 points. NASDAQ dips 0.2%, S&P falls 0.5%.
Who was the first British monarch to address the United States Congress?
After being subjected to a political pounding from Republicans, it appears that the White House is now punching back.
In the last 48 hours, President Barack Obama has gone on the offensive in an effort to try and prevent three scandals from overwhelming his agenda, CNN’s Tom Cohen notes.
As Gut Check wrote on Tuesday, the three potential scandals – Benghazi, the DOJ subpoenaing phone records from the Association Press and the IRS targeting certain conservative groups – threaten to stymie Obama’s ability to push his agenda on Capitol Hill at a critical time in his presidency.
Obama’s three-pronged response is an effort to get on top of the nagging issues.
IRS: At a hastily scheduled Wednesday televised statement, Obama announced the resignation of the acting Internal Revenue Service director over the political targeting, calling the agency's conduct “inexcusable” and declaring: “Americans have a right to be angry about it, and I'm angry about it.” Today, OMB official Danny Werfel was named the new acting IRS commissioner.
AP phone records: Earlier on Wednesday, the White House announced its support for strengthening protections of journalists and confidential sources even as Attorney General Eric Holder evaded questions at a congressional hearing about how his Justice Department obtained phone records of The Associated Press from 2012 as part of an investigation of classified leaks.
Benghazi: Late Wednesday afternoon, the White House released more than 100 pages of e-mails sought by GOP critics about the talking points on the September attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.
As Cohen writes, “Together, the actions by Obama and the White House were a swift counter-attack in the face of mounting questions and demands by Republican leaders, and some Democrats, over the controversies threatening to overwhelm his agenda less than four months into his second term.”
Did you miss it?
Leading CNNPolitics: Probing questions, long delays for tea party groups
Tea party groups describe an arduous IRS application process for tax-exempt status with probing questions and long delays. In addition to standard questions that organizations face when applying for tax-exempt status, a handful of tea party organizations told CNN they were asked probing questions about the websites they maintained, literature they use for research and future activities the groups had planned. – Dan Merica
Leading Drudge: Congressman Charges: They Tapped House Cloak Room!
California congressman Devin Nunes made the claim yesterday that the Justice Department wiretapped telephones in the House of Representative's Cloak Room, an exclusive part of the Capitol where members are able to privately interact with one another. Nunes made the claim on Hugh Hewitt's radio show. – Daniel Halper
Leading HuffPo: Longing To 'Go Bulworth'
The New York Times reported that President Barack Obama has spoken privately of “going Bulworth,” a reference to the 1998 Warren Beatty movie about a California Senate candidate who becomes unusually honest after having run as a centrist Democrat. “Probably every president says that from time to time,” Obama adviser David Axelrod told the Times. “It’s probably cathartic just to say it. But the reality is that while you want to be truthful, you want to be straightforward, you also want to be practical about whatever you’re saying.” – Luke Johnson
Leading Politico: Obama to Congress: Boost embassy security funding
President Barack Obama called on Congress to take action to boost security at U.S. diplomatic facilities around the world, as he continued efforts Thursday to take control of a controversy that has plagued his administration for the past eight months and intensified amid heightened scrutiny this week. – Jennifer Epstein
Leading The New York Times: Onset of Woes Casts Pall Over Obama’s Policy Aspirations
Thwarted on Capitol Hill, stymied in the Middle East and now beset by scandal, President Obama has reached a point just six months after a heady re-election where the second term he had hoped for has collided with the second term he actually has. – Peter Baker
The political bites of the day
– FBI Director: Al Qaeda remains a threat –
ROBERT MUELLER, DIRECTOR OF THE FBI, AT A HEARING ON CAPITOL HILL: “Al Qaeda and surrogates, in particular al Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula, pose a continuing and growing threat. And in light of the recent attacks in North Africa, we must focus in emerging extremists groups capable of carrying out such additional attacks.”
– Boehner pledges to hold administration accountable –
HOUSE SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER AT HIS WEEKLY PRESS CONFERENCE ON CAPITOL HILL: “We're also focused on holding this administration accountable. Our committees are working overtime to uncover the truth about what happened in Libya and they're trying to get to the bottom of what happened in the IRS scandal. Public service requires humility and everyone in public office needs to be constantly reminded that they serve the American people and it's not the other way around.”
– Rand Paul: ‘IRS scandal needs more than a scapegoat’ –
REPUBLICAN SEN. RAND PAUL IN AN OPINION EDITORIAL FOR CNN: “On Wednesday, the president requested and received the resignation of Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller - but that is not enough. The executive branch has been aware of this scandal for nearly two years and now, only as a result of massive public pressure, the administration has found a scapegoat. … Holding the guilty parties accountable is just the first step. But if the handling of the attack in Benghazi, Libya, is any indication, there are no guarantees this will happen.”
– Gillibrand hopes to root out sexual assault in the military –
DEMOCRATIC SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND AT A SENATE HEARING: “The issue of sexual violence is not new. It has been allowed to go on in the shadows for far too long. And for all of us, we believe enough is enough. It's time to change this system that has been held over since George Washington that is simply not working today for the men and women who are serving. Due to the series of incredibly hard to fathom events, this issue has been raised in the national consciousness. We have to cease this opportunity and act now so we can move towards a true zero tolerance reality in the armed services.”
What stopped us in 140 characters or less
I'm sorry, IRS, but I'm afraid we'll have to deny your application for status as a non-partisan organization.—
John Hayward (@Doc_0) May 16, 2013
TRIVIA ANSWER from @DanMericaCNN
It took nearly 215 years after the United States declared its independence from the British, for the first British monarch to address the United States Congress.
On this day in 1991, Queen Elizabeth II addressed a joint meeting of Congress during her 13-day visit to the United States. In her remarks, the queen acknowledged the unique relationship between the United States and Britain.
"Some people believe that power grows from the barrel of a gun," the Queen said. "So it can, but history shows that it never grows well nor for very long. Force, in the end, is sterile. We have gone a better way: our societies rest on mutual agreement, on contract and on consensus."
The queen’s visit was also fairly controversial.
Democratic Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy of Massachusetts and a handful of other lawmakers boycotted the speech because, according to The New York Times, "the British occupation in northern Ireland."
Democratic Rep. Gus Savage of Illinois, along with civil rights leaders, said black lawmakers should protest the event because of Britain's support of South Africa during apartheid.
Also on the queen's itinerary: a trip to the White House, visits to Florida, Texas and Kentucky and even a baseball game in Baltimore.
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