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A Bad Day for Two Agencies
It's been a rough day for the Obama administration.
The morning was dominated by a leak of e-mail summaries that suggest a State Department official interjected politics into the administration’s response to the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
Discussing “talking points” being prepared for U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, a State Department spokeswoman warned officials at the White House and intelligence agencies that mention of CIA warnings of past threats “could be abused by members [of Congress] to beat up the State Department for not paying attention to warnings, so why would we want to feed that either? Concerned....”
The paragraph was deleted.
Later today, the Internal Revenue Service apologized for giving special scrutiny to political groups with “tea party” or “patriot” in their names. The practice was wrong, the IRS said, but not politically motivated. Conservatives have long suspected that the agency singled them out for unfair treatment. Loaded with hard-working civil servants, the State Department and IRS normally steer clear of politics. Not on this day.
IRS ACKNOWLEDGES TARGETING CONSERVATIVE GROUPS, APOLOGIZES. The Internal Revenue Service acknowledged today that it had targeted for heightened scrutiny organizations seeking tax exemptions whose applications included the terms “patriot” or “tea party,” the Associated Press reports. “That was wrong. That was absolutely incorrect, it was insensitive, and it was inappropriate. That’s not how we go about selecting cases for further review,” Director of Exempt Organizations Lois Lerner told a conference sponsored by the American Bar Association. “The IRS would like to apologize for that.” According to Lerner, the practice, which targeted 75 groups, “was initiated by low-level workers in Cincinnati and was not motivated by political bias.” Higher-ranking officials were not aware of the practice, she said. Read more
- National Journal’s Nancy Cook writes that the news gives congressional Republicans more ammunition in their drive to defund and weaken the agency.
CLINTON URGED TO TESTIFY AGAIN ON BENGHAZI. Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is under pressure to return to Capitol Hill to testify on the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, USA Today reports. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said in an interview that the findings of the State Department’s Accountability Review Board were incomplete, and that Clinton should aid a congressional inquiry into the attack that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens. Asked whether Clinton should be subpoenaed, Graham said, "I hope she would come back without that, but yes. I think she needs to come back and answer questions.” Meanwhile, American Crossroads released a Web video today criticizing Clinton over the department’s response to the attack. Read more
- Clinton’s allies are coming to her defense, citing “tinfoil hats” and “right-wing” groups, National Journal’s Michael Catalini reports. Welcome back to the 1990s!
SCRUBBING THE TRUTH FROM BENGHAZI. Summaries of e-mails among White House and State Department officials reveal that the Obama administration played politics with the Benghazi attack, National Journal’s Ron Fournier writes. With more disclosures likely to come, the administration “might want to borrow a page from the scandal-ridden Bill Clinton playbook: Release all Benghazi documents at a time and manner of their choosing, before the GOP does so.” Read more
OBAMAS TO MAKE OFFICIAL VISITS TO BELFAST, BERLIN IN JUNE. Obama and his wife, Michelle Obama, are scheduled to travel to Belfast, Ireland, on June 17-18 to attend the Group of Eight summit, which will be hosted by U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron. The first couple will then visit Berlin, where the president will meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Joachim Gauck. Cameron will visit the White House on Monday to discuss the developing situation in Syria, as well as counterterrorism efforts and economic issues. Read more
HOUSE INTRODUCES NEW FARM BILL WITH DEEPER CUTS TO FOOD STAMPS. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., today unveiled a revised farm bill that he claims would reduce spending by $39.7 billion over 10 years, in part due to substantial cuts to food-stamp programs. A version of the bill that passed the committee last year but did not reach a full House vote would have reduced spending by $35 billion over the next decade. The new bill would reduce food-stamp spending by $20.5 billion, compared with $16 billion under the previous measure. A corresponding measure advanced Thursday by the Senate Agriculture Committee would reduce overall spending by $23 billion and food-stamp spending by $4 billion. Read more
THE COMING GOP CIVIL WAR OVER CLIMATE CHANGE. A quiet, but growing, number of Republicans fear voters will abandon the GOP unless the party comes to an honest reckoning about global warming, National Journal’s Coral Davenport reports. Already, deep fissures are emerging between, on one side, a base of ideological voters and lawmakers with strong ties to powerful tea-party groups and super PACs funded by the fossil-fuel industry that sees climate change as a false threat concocted by liberals to justify greater government control; and on the other side, a quiet group of moderates, younger voters, and leading conservative intellectuals that fears that if Republicans continue to dismiss or deny climate change, the party will become irrelevant. Read more
- The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere surpassed a long-feared milestone Thursday, one that has not been seen for 3 million years, The New York Times reports.
IS YOUR STATE’S HIGHEST-PAID EMPLOYEE A COACH? PROBABLY. The website Deadspin offers a fascinating infographic on each state’s highest-paid public employee. “Based on data drawn from media reports and state salary databases, the ranks of the highest-paid active public employees include 27 football coaches, 13 basketball coaches, one hockey coach, and 10 dorks who aren't even in charge of a team,” the website reports. Read more
“The new evidence we have today—and that continues to mount—suggests that at the very least, Mrs. Clinton should never hold high office again.” —Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., in an op-ed for The Washington Times, on Benghazi
FROM PUNCH LINE TO INTERNET NECESSITY. In 18 months, Netflix has gone from being the subject of a Saturday Night Live parody to a behemoth Americans can’t live without. “On a normal weeknight, Netflix accounts for almost a third of all Internet traffic entering North American homes. That’s more than YouTube, Hulu, Amazon.com, HBO Go, iTunes, and BitTorrent combined,” writes Ashlee Vance for Bloomberg Businessweek. When Netflix announced intentions roughly two years ago to raise prices and split into two companies—one for DVDs by mail, one for streaming—its price plummeted from nearly $300 a share to just over $50. But since a hasty apology, the company has been at the forefront of bolstering cloud computing, pushing Amazon’s servers, which Netflix rents, to new heights. Read more
PLAY OF THE DAY
CICADAS, MARS AND BILL CLINTON’S PANTS. The 17-year Brood II cicadas are set to swarm the East Coast this year, and David Letterman has some news they may have missed out on—including smartphones and how the Al Gore presidency turned out. Also on The Late Show last night, Letterman noted NASA’s plan to send people to Mars and was curious about the application process. On Conan, Bill Clinton’s pants are nowhere to be found, while The Tonight Show’s Jay Leno knows the new slogan for the Benghazi hearings. Watch it here
TODAY’S PHOTO GALLERY
FOR MOTHER’S DAY: FIRST LADIES AND THEIR CHILDREN. In honor of Mother’s Day, The Huffington Post has a gallery of first ladies and their offspring, including portraits of the Lincoln family, Jacqueline Kennedy on horseback with John Jr., and Caroline and Laura Bush and Michelle Obama with children. Be sure to check out the odd portrait of a curl-lipped Grover Cleveland with wife Frances and daughter Ruth. See it here
BENGHAZI, SANFORD AND MOTHERS. This week’s revelations regarding the attack of the diplomatic mission in Benghazi are sure to dominate the Sunday shows: House Oversight Chair Darrell Issa, R-Calif., will be making an appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press. Meanwhile, South Carolina Rep.-elect Mark Sanford will do an interview with Fox News Sunday. The “congressional Moms” will make an appearance on ABC’s This Week.
- NBC’s Meet the Press hosts House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.
- ABC’s This Week hosts Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and “congressional Moms” with Rep. Jamie Hererra Beutler, R-Wash., Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers R-Wash., Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif.
- CBS’s Face the Nation hosts former Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.
- Fox News Sunday hosts Rep.-elect Mark Sanford, R-S.C., and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich.
- CNN’s State of the Union hosts two female Iraq War veterans: Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, to react to the Pentagon’s sexual assault report.