President Obama found himself in the unusual position on Monday of echoing GOP outrage over revelations that the Internal Revenue Service targeted Tea Party groups, while slamming his adversaries for creating “a sideshow” for reviving a long simmering imbroglio over his administration’s response to last year’s attack on a U.S. diplomatic post in Libya.
By the end of the day on Monday, the administration found itself battling yet another potential crisis as lawyers for the Associated Press charged that the Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors for the AP in what the news agency called a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into how news organizations gather the news.
“We take seriously our obligations to follow all applicable laws, federal regulations, and Department of Justice policies when issuing subpoenas for phone records of media organizations,” the Justice Department said in a statement in response to the AP’s allegations. “Those regulations require us to make every reasonable effort to obtain information through alternative means before even considering a subpoena for the phone records of a member of the media.”
Attorney General Eric Holder is scheduled to appear before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, and will likely face questions on the matter.
“This is obviously disturbing,” said Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Committee. “Coming within a week of revelations that the White House lied to the American people about the Benghazi attacks and the IRS targeted conservative Americans for their political beliefs, Americans should take notice that top Obama Administration officials increasingly see themselves as above the law and emboldened by the belief that they don’t have to answer to anyone.”
Obama stopped short of apologizing for the IRS or calling for any particular action against agency officials in his first public comments since the IRS acknowledged last week that employees in the Cincinnati office routinely required conservative organizations seeking non-profit status to undergo more scrutiny.
But Obama said that anyone found to be guilty of such actions should be held accountable, while calling the actions by agency personnel “outrageous.”
“I’ve got no patience for it,” the president said in a joint news conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron, who was visiting the White House on Monday. “I will not tolerate it.”