May 13th, 2013
08:39 PM ET
9 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.

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"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. U.S. Citizen

    Congress needs to reign in the authority of agencies to impose regulations that are designed to pander, to be punitive, or to impose a Social or Political Doctrine.

    May 14, 2013 05:32 am at 5:32 am |
  2. U.S. Citizen

    Bottom line is that Congress needs to stop neglecting its role of oversight.

    May 14, 2013 05:33 am at 5:33 am |
  3. Safejourney

    Oversight yes, witch hunts, No

    May 14, 2013 06:27 am at 6:27 am |
  4. Marie MD

    Why isn't anybody asking why the head of an oversight committee is a car thief?
    Just like mcnasty, ms. lindsey and the rest of the one term didn't work let's try everything to bring him down before 2016 gang, are looking not just stu pid (bobby from LA who rallied for the nra and 20 people in New Orleans were shot at a parade) but pathetic.
    WHERE ARE THE JOBS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!?????????????????? Even bo ner has gotten into the fray.

    May 14, 2013 06:36 am at 6:36 am |
  5. Mountainsboyca

    Man American populus is worried about government oppression. I would be more worried about the GOP attempting a coup.
    Recommending a couple more oversight committees in an attempt to fix perceived administration problems. Just have to have their fingers in everything.
    Then there is the budget problems and they want to spend more money on more burpocracy. They are not out to keep the government in check, they are out to take over the government or at the very least run it to the greound and then blame the administration.
    They can't win an election so may as well take it over.

    May 14, 2013 06:58 am at 6:58 am |
  6. Name lynn

    The irs got some of the rich people money while the people was picking at other people, including obama someone told an thats was right, The irs is snakes.

    May 14, 2013 07:20 am at 7:20 am |
  7. Mountainsboyca

    The GOP doesn't want to work with the admin. If they did budget would not be an issue, gun and/or mental restrictions would not be an issue. Employment would not be an issue. And it goes on. All they want to do is a pre-emptive election smear campaign. The only way they can get into the White House again is to run the government down and tell the public that Obama's team is not doing anything. No wonder, GOP is blocking every move.
    Do I smell a congressional coup coming?

    May 14, 2013 07:29 am at 7:29 am |
  8. Malloy

    Congressional oversight? Well they sure have done a fine job in the past. Just look at how they handled the WMD's in Iraq. Or how they handled the fiscal cliff and then there was the sequester. Or the continuing attempts to stop funding Planned Parenthood. Or how about the separation of Church and State? Supporting 'faith based initiatives' is not a political statement. Certainly they have shown what a fine job they have done in managing the countries fiscal and social policies. Let's put them in charge of everything. Forget about separation of powers. The demonstrated sound judgement of the house, as in gun control, immigration, tax equality, etc makes it a good idea to let them oversee everything. Get real! These guys would do nothing that was not politically driven. They seem to forget that they lost the last election. Same story. "We shall prove that Obama cannot run the country even if it means we drive it off a cliff."

    May 14, 2013 07:57 am at 7:57 am |
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