The document drip in the IRS probe continued on Tuesday, with top congressional Democrats releasing new information that they said definitively shows the tax agency applied heightened scrutiny to both progressive and conservative groups.
Democrats and Republicans have engaged in a series of strategic leaks since the probe of the Internal Revenue Service began months ago.
On Tuesday, newly released internal minutes from 2010 show that “progressive” was listed alongside “tea parties” as criteria that “should be flagged for review.”
In a letter to congressional Democrats, the IRS said that other, previously undisclosed, search terms used included “ACORN successors” and “Emerge” (there is a national progressive group, Emerge America). The auditor who set off the scandal has said that tax authorities had singled out tea-party groups for extra scrutiny.
“This new information should put a nail in the coffin of the Republican claims that the IRS’s actions were politically motivated or were targeted at only one side of the political spectrum,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
The chairman of the panel, Republican Rep. Darrell Issa of California, is unlikely to be deterred in his probe, however. Earlier this month, Issa said he was expanding his inquiry to look into possible improper coordinate between the tax agency and the Federal Election Commission.
“How many times have Congressional Democrats now tried to declare the IRS targeting investigation over?” said Issa spokesman Frederick Hill. He said there was “no comparison” between the agency’s treatment of Emerge and tea-party groups. “The fact that Emerge was initially approved for tax exempt status, but had it revoked after its improper behavior came to light, underscores how much more stringent the IRS was with Tea Party applicants.”
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In a statement Friday, Sen. John McCain wrote, "I cannot in good conscience vote for the Graham-Cassidy proposal. I believe we could do better working together, Republicans and Democrats, and have not yet really tried. Nor could I support it without knowing how much it will cost, how it will effect insurance premiums, and how many people will be helped or hurt by it. Without a full CBO score, which won't be available by the end of the month, we won't have reliable answers to any of those questions." His "no" vote makes it much less likely Republicans will repeal and replace Obamacare by Sept. 30.
As anticipated, the Department of Education today withdrew the controversial Obama-era "Dear Colleague" letter on campus sexual assault, replacing it with new interim guidance. Most notably, the new guidance permits colleges to use a “clear and convincing” standard of evidence, rather than the preponderance of evidence standard that the 2011 letter seemed to mandate. "The new guidance also states that colleges may facilitate informal resolutions, including mediation, if all parties agree to participate in that process."
"The Trump administration will unveil more tailored restrictions on travelers from certain countries as a replacement to the controversial travel ban, according to a senior administration official. The new restrictions will vary by country. They could include a ban on travel to the United States, or new restrictions on obtaining a visa for citizens of particular countries." They are expected to be unveiled by Sunday.
In a live-streamed address from Silicon Valley, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced a nine-point plan that the tech giant is rolling out over coming months to respond to "efforts by nation-states and private actors to use the social media platform to influence U.S. elections." Most importantly, the company will force all advertisers to disclose what ads they're running to all audiences. “When someone buys political ads on TV or other media, they’re required by law to disclose who paid for them,” Zuckerberg said. “But you still don’t know if you’re seeing the same messages as everyone else. So we’re going to bring Facebook to an even higher standard of transparency. Not only will you have to disclose which page paid for an ad, but we will also make it so you can visit an advertiser’s page and see the ads they’re currently running to any audience on Facebook.”
As "part of a broader Trump administration order for anti-leaks training at all executive branch agencies," Environmental Protection Agency employees "are attending mandatory training sessions this week to reinforce their compliance with laws and rules against leaking classified or sensitive government information ... Relatively few EPA employees deal with classified files, but the new training also reinforces requirements to keep 'Controlled Unclassified Information' from unauthorized disclosure."