A Slow Lerner
It wasn't what Lois Lerner said at yesterday's House hearing that incriminated her -- but what she didn't. For the second time, the former head of the IRS's tax-exempt division pled the Fifth Amendment, dodging the tough questions about the agency's discrimination against conservative and Christian groups. Government Oversight and Reform Chair Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said over the weekend he was confident Lerner would testify, only to be proved wrong in a frustrating display of administration obstructionism.
Lerner sat quietly through the series of damning slides from Issa's investigation, her silence deafening. Determined to get answers, the California Republican asked Lerner what she meant when she emailed colleagues that tea party cases were "very dangerous." He pressed her about a message to her staff about initiating a "c4 project," after which she wrote, "we need to be cautious so it isn't a per se political project." When she weighed the applications of nonprofit groups with the word "tea party" or "patriot" in their titles, Issa wanted to know why they had to undergo a "multi-tier review" instead of the standard process. What did Lois mean, for example, when she suggested writing new regulations on political speech for c4 groups that was "off-plan" in 2013? The response to every question was the same: "On the advice of my counsel, I respectfully exercise my Fifth Amendment right and decline to answer that question."
Finally fed-up, Issa angrily adjourned the hearing and cut off the mics -- but not before a spat with liberal Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), who complained the committee was over-polarizing the controversy. But if anyone is guilty of over-polarizing, it's the IRS and White House. Almost a year after admitting to and apologizing for harassing conservatives, liberals suddenly insist the scandal is a "phony" one. But if it's so phony, why won't Lois Lerner cooperate with the investigation? And if there's no truth to the allegations, why resign? Obviously, the administration must be hiding something.
When the President sat down with Bill O'Reilly before the Super Bowl, he blamed the targeting on "some bone-headed decisions... out of a local office." "But no mass corruption?" O'Reilly pressed. To which President Obama replied, "Not even a smidgeon of corruption." Now, I don't know what the President's definition of "corruption" is, but based on the last five years, it's vastly different than most Americans'. And anyone demanding immunity before testifying doesn't exactly seem above suspicion.
For now, the GOP is keeping its options open -- including a formal censure of Lerner. "I'll wait for a report from Issa about what happened and what will happen," Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said frankly, "but at some point... she has to testify or she should be held in contempt." In the meantime, the reality is that the IRS is already held in contempt where it matters most -- with taxpayers.
The DOJ's Civil Rights -- and Wrongs
Until recently, most Americans had probably never heard of Debo Adegbile. The former attorney for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund is best known for his role in defending a convicted cop killer, a job he did so convincingly that his client was spared from death row. Among other things, Adegbile has lobbied to use racial criteria in college admissions and campaigned to use racial grounds to oversee certain states. And while his controversial record gave several people pause, President Obama was not one of them.
Against the advice of his own party, the White House nominated Debo to head up the most explosive corner of the U.S. Justice Department -- the Civil Rights Division. The office, one the most ideologically extreme in the entire administration, handles the DOJ's racial issues. And for too many Democrats, putting Adegbile in charge was a radical leap that even they couldn't support. Despite being passed out of committee, senators on both sides of the aisle put the kibosh on Adegbile's confirmation in the first floor vote on his nomination yesterday.
"Let there be no mistake," wrote Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Seth Williams in advance of the vote, "Our concern is not based on the fact that Mr. Adegbile acted as an attorney for a criminal defendant. The right to counsel is a fundamental part of America's criminal justice system, and no lawyer should be faulted for the crimes of his clients. But it is one thing to provide legal representation and quite another to seize on a case and turn it into a political platform from which to launch an extreme attack on the justice system. When a lawyer chooses that course, it is appropriate to ask whether he should be singled out for a high-level national position in, of all things, law enforcement."
With the help of seven Democrats, the GOP shot down Adegbile's nomination 52-47 Wednesday. To a man, they agreed that it wasn't Debo's role as Mumia Abu Jamal's attorney that sunk him, but how he politicized the issue. President Obama, who sent Vice President Joe Biden to campaign for Adegbile's confirmation, called the defeat a "travesty." To others, it was a sign of just how extreme the nomination was. Even after forcing a change in the Senate's confirmation rules and greasing the skids to make the process easier for the Left, the President's candidates are still too radical to get approval! And in an administration with Eric Holder, Kathleen Sebelius, and other examples of lawlessness on the payroll, that's saying something!
Christians in the Crosshairs
Behind Kim Jong-Un's photo ops with former NBA stars lies a brutal North Korean dictator that no amount of celebrity PR will change. Months after putting his uncle, ex-girlfriend, and many others to death in front of a firing squad, Kim is preparing to exact revenge on almost three dozen Christians, who he says were carrying out "anti-state" activities by bringing Bibles into the country. To the horror of the world, Jong-Un has ordered the execution of 33 believers, who, led by South Korean Baptist missionary Kim Jung-wook, had reportedly started dozens of underground churches. Desperate for solace, "There are hundreds of underground churches across North Korea. North Koreans who have lost hope in their future are attracted to religion," the missionary members say.
Meanwhile in the U.S., Obama administration officials have yet to come to the Christians' aid. For the President, who insisted just last month that religious freedom is a "universal right," the silence is particularly deafening. "...[K]illing the innocent is never fulfilling God's will," President Obama insisted at the National Prayer Breakfast. "In fact," he went on, "it is the ultimate betrayal of God's will." While we wait for the administration to defend the human rights it says it supports, please join us in praying for these brave men and women, who know, as Psalm 48:14 tells us, "For this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end."
** If you missed yesterday's lecture, the U.N. versus the Vatican, with C-FAM President Austin Ruse and FRC's Travis Weber and Dr. Pat Fagan, check it out below. Also, don't miss Bob Morrison's piece in National Review on the German homeschooling family, called "The Romeike Reprieve."
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.