Fox News distorted the testimony of Attorney General Eric Holder to claim that he committed perjury before the House Judiciary Committee last week.
It was recently revealed that the Justice Department obtained a search warrant for the communications records of Fox News reporter James Rosen in an effort to track down a leaker who provided him with classified information on North Korea in 2009. On May 15, during a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) asked Holder about the warrant and the potential for prosecuting journalists accused of publishing classified information that they obtained from government sources. Holder responded (emphasis added):
With regard to the potential prosecution of the press for the disclosure of material. That is not something that I've ever been involved in, heard of, or would think would be a wise policy.
On May 24, the Justice Department released a statement clarifying Holder's involvement in the approval process for the warrants in question (emphasis added):
"The Department takes seriously the First Amendment right to freedom of the press. In recognition of this, the Department took great care in deciding that a search warrant was necessary in the Kim matter, vetting the decision at the highest levels of the Department, including discussions with the Attorney General. After extensive deliberations, and after following all applicable laws, regulations and policies, the Department sought an appropriately tailored search warrant under the Privacy Protection Act. And a federal magistrate judge made an independent finding that probable cause existed to approve the search warrant."
Fox News' Special Report on May 24 argued that these statements were inconsistent and concluded that the Attorney General had previously lied to the Judiciary Committee and thus had committed perjury. Host Shannon Bream began the show stating, "It's his story, but he's not sticking to it," claiming that Holder has "chang[ed] his tune" on his involvement in the scrutiny of journalists. Contributor Steve Hayes claimed that Holder's two statements were "incongruent" and Charles Krauthammer speculated that it may be "a case of perjury."
In fact, the statements are not "incongruent" whatsoever. Holder's comments to the Judiciary referred to the possibility of prosecuting journalists for publishing classified information, but that is not the crime the Justice Department's warrant accused Rosen of committing. DOJ investigators were concerned with Rosen's solicitation of classified information, not any subsequent publication of it. Wired explained (emphasis added):
According to the affidavit (.pdf), FBI Agent Reginald Reyes told the judge there was probable cause to believe that Rosen had violated the Espionage Act by serving "as an aider, abettor and/or co-conspirator" in the leak. The Espionage Act is the same law that former Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning is accused of violating when he leaked information to the secret-spilling site WikiLeaks.
To support his assertion, Reyes quoted an email exchange between Kim and Rosen, in which Rosen told him that he was interested in "breaking news ahead of my competitors" and had a particular interest in "what intelligence is picking up." He also told Kim, "I'd love to see some internal State Department analyses."
The suggestion was that Rosen broke the law by soliciting information from Kim, something that all journalists do routinely with sources.
Nonetheless, the federal judge found there was probable cause to believe that Rosen was a co-conspirator and approved the warrant.
In other words, Holder's on-the-record denial of involvement in any prosecution of news organizations for publishing classified information in no way conflicts with any knowledge he may have possessed or action the DOJ may have taken against reporters for soliciting said information. Fox's perjury accusations simply don't align with the facts.
The Washington Times attempted to recycle misinformation about Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's warning that GOP obstructionism of President Obama's nominees is unsustainable, but published an inaccurate argument that doesn't support its own rhetoric.
In a May 24 editorial, The Washington Times claimed Reid's announcement that he would revisit filibuster reform in July because of the unprecedented obstructionism of the president's executive and judicial nominees "disturbed the peace of the Senate" and was a "variant" of court-packing analogous to former President Franklin Roosevelt's famous threat to expand the number of seats on the pre-war Supreme Court. From the editorial:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid doesn't like the direction the federal judiciary is heading, so he has come up with a variant of court-packing to achieve his results. He took the Senate floor Wednesday to defend the use of the "nuclear option" to bypass Senate rules and force through President Obama's nominees to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
That would be the same court whose three-member panel in late January ruled, unanimously, that Mr. Obama's faux "recess appointments" of Big Labor-approved nominees to the National Labor Relations Board were unconstitutional. "You have a majority in that court that is wreaking havoc in the country," Mr. Reid complained, citing only the NLRB ruling. "For the first time in 230 years, they ruled the president can't make a recess appointment."
The three judges accused of havoc-wreaking merely made the point, obvious to English-speakers everywhere, that the president is obliged to wait for a recess before he can make a recess appointment.
Mr. Reid's rant disturbed the peace of the Senate amid debate over how quickly to proceed with the nomination of Deputy Solicitor General Sri Srinivasan to the 11-member D.C. appeals court, which currently has four vacancies. Mr. Reid's claim that the vacancies must be filled at once to restore ideological "balance" to the court is patently false, given that four of its seven judges are appointees of Republican presidents and three were appointed by Democrats. Four more liberal judges would likely guarantee a rubber stamp for Mr. Obama's agenda. Some "balance."
Mr. Reid is trying to follow the example of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who dreamed up the concept of outcome-based adjudication with his 1937 attempt to pack the U.S. Supreme Court.
Contrary to The Washington Times' description that Reid is trying to "bypass Senate rules," Reid is actually adopting a GOP proposal that was floated when Republicans were in the majority, which was to change Senate rules to allow filibusters to be broken by majority vote. Although a handful of longer-tenured Democratic Senators have been hesitant at such a move - the so-called "nuclear option" - the stark realization that GOP opposition to the president's agenda has extended to blanket opposition of his nominees is reportedly causing a change in position.
In case you haven't been following, the hot new right-wing narrative is that President Obama, despite not having any provable connection to the IRS's inappropriate targeting of conservative non-profit groups, is nonetheless culpable because he exerts subtle influence over low-level bureaucrats which leads them to act out against conservatives and the Tea Party. The chief proponent of this theory has been the Wall Street Journal editorial page -- specifically, Journal editorial board member Kimberley Strassel, who has devoted her last two weekly columns to Bureaucrat Whispering.
Her May 24 column can be viewed as Bureaucrat Whispering's apotheosis, as she argues that if the country really wants to "get to the bottom of the IRS scandal," it must look to the White House, which was not involved in the actual scandal:
None of this proves that Mr. Obama was involved in the IRS targeting of conservative nonprofits. But it does help explain how we got an environment in which the IRS thought this was acceptable.
The rise of conservative organizations (to match liberal groups that had long played in politics), and their effectiveness in the 2004 election (derided broadly by liberals as "swift boating"), led to a new and organized campaign in 2008 to chill conservative donors and groups via the threat of government investigation and prosecution. The tone in any organization--a charity, a corporation, the U.S. government--is set at the top.
This history also casts light on White House claims that it was clueless about the IRS's targeting. As Huffington Post's Howard Fineman wrote this week: "With two winning presidential campaigns built on successful grassroots fundraising, with a former White House counsel (in 2010-11) who is one of the Democrats' leading experts on campaign law (Bob Bauer), with former top campaign officials having been ensconced as staffers in the White House . . . it's hard to imagine that the Obama inner circle was oblivious to the issue of what the IRS was doing in Cincinnati." More like inconceivable.
And this history exposes the left's hollow claim that the IRS mess rests on Citizens United. The left was targeting conservative groups and donors well before the Supreme Court's 2010 ruling on independent political expenditures by corporations.
If the country wants to get to the bottom of the IRS scandal, it must first remember the context for this abuse. That context leads to this White House.
Right-wing media figures are attacking President Obama over his decision to lift a moratorium on a Guantánamo Bay detainee transfer to Yemen -- a decision that has earned the praise of a former top Navy judge and is an important step toward closing the detention facility, which experts agree is necessary.
On May 23, Obama announced that he is lifting his ban on the transfer of detainees from the Guantánamo Bay detention center to Yemen. That ban was put in place following the failed Christmas Day 2009 bombing attempt on a U.S. airliner. The convicted bomber involved in the attempt trained in Yemen.
Right-wing media figures seized on the news to attack Obama. Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin warned that transfers are "a surefire recipe for more Benghazis, more U.S.S. Coles and more innocent lives at risk":
Gird your loins, America. President Obama intends to empty out Guantanamo Bay and send scores of suspected Muslim terror operatives back to their jihadist-coddling native countries. Goaded by anti-war activists and soft-on-terror attorneys (including those from Attorney General Eric Holder's former private law firm), Obama announced Thursday that he'll lift a ban on sending up to 90 Yemeni detainees home and will initiate other stalled transfers out of the compound.
This radical appeasement of Obama's left flank is a surefire recipe for more Benghazis, more U.S.S. Coles and more innocent lives at risk.
On the May 24 edition of The Laura Ingraham Show, host and Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham touted Malkin's "terrific piece" and criticized Obama's lifting of the ban as nothing more than an "attempt to look like you're serious."
As Reuters reported, repatriating prisoners to Yemen is one of multiple steps Obama announced to move toward closing Guantánamo -- something experts agree must be done.
On Fox News, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani suggested that the Obama administration has refused to recognize extremist Muslim ideology as a unifying theme in terrorist attacks on the U.S. even though the day before President Obama expressly identified radical Islam as "a common ideology" in terrorist attacks.
On the May 24 edition of Fox's America's Newsroom, Giuliani attacked a speech that Obama delivered the day before at the National Defense University, claiming the president does not understand the role of extremist Islamic ideology in fueling terrorism and comparing him to "a police chief that refuses to recognize" a connection between many serial killings:
In fact, President Obama discussed the role that radical Islam plays in terror attacks in his speech, stressing the need to understand that terrorist threats "don't arise in a vacuum":
Lethal yet less capable al Qaeda affiliates. Threats to diplomatic facilities and businesses abroad. Homegrown extremists. This is the future of terrorism. We must take these threats seriously, and do all that we can to confront them. But as we shape our response, we have to recognize that the scale of this threat closely resembles the types of attacks we faced before 9/11. In the 1980s, we lost Americans to terrorism at our Embassy in Beirut; at our Marine Barracks in Lebanon; on a cruise ship at sea; at a disco in Berlin; and on Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie. In the 1990s, we lost Americans to terrorism at the World Trade Center; at our military facilities in Saudi Arabia; and at our Embassy in Kenya. These attacks were all deadly, and we learned that left unchecked, these threats can grow. But if dealt with smartly and proportionally, these threats need not rise to the level that we saw on the eve of 9/11.
Moreover, we must recognize that these threats don't arise in a vacuum. Most, though not all, of the terrorism we face is fueled by a common ideology - a belief by some extremists that Islam is in conflict with the United States and the West, and that violence against Western targets, including civilians, is justified in pursuit of a larger cause. Of course, this ideology is based on a lie, for the United States is not at war with Islam; and this ideology is rejected by the vast majority of Muslims, who are the most frequent victims of terrorist acts.
The recent brutal slaying of a gay man in New York City had all the trappings of a national news story, so why was it ignored by major cable news outlets?
On May 17, Mark Carson was shot in the face and killed while walking home in New York's Greenwich Village by a man who pelted him with anti-gay slurs and asked, "You want to die tonight?" Carson's alleged killer, Elliot Morales, reportedly laughed as he was arrested by police, bragging about what he had done.
The incident highlights a recent spike in anti-gay hate crimes both in New York City and across the country. Days after Carson's death, community members staged a massive rally against anti-gay violence featuring several city mayoral candidates.
Carson's death was also symbolically significant. The shooting took place just blocks away from the Stonewall Inn, considered by many to be the birthplace of the modern gay rights movement. And the brutal hate crime comes in the wake of growing acceptance of LGBT people, with three more states adopting marriage equality just in the past several weeks.
But despite the significance of Carson's death, cable news outlets largely ignored the incident, opting instead to continue obsessively reporting on the trial against Jodi Arias, a woman who has been convicted of murdering her boyfriend.
According to an Equality Matters analysis, while all three major cable news networks extensively covered Arias' trial and her plea to jurors to avoid the death penalty, CNN spent less than one minute discussing Carson's murder, and Fox News ignored the story completely:
Fox News contributor and National Review columnist John Fund fabricated a link between voter suppression and IRS employees inappropriately singling out tea party and conservative groups' applications for tax-exempt status, claiming that such scrutiny by the IRS is the "real" form of voter suppression.
Fund still claims that voter suppression as commonly understood - attempts to prevent certain members of the public from voting - did not take place during the 2012 elections, despite widespread reports of such efforts fueled by restrictive voter ID laws.
On the May 21 edition of Lou Dobbs Tonight, Fund stated that "there was a lot of ridiculous charges about voter suppression in the last election even though black turnout was higher than white turnout." Fund again denied the existence of voter suppression in a May 23 editorial in the National Review Online, stating that allegations of voter suppression"proved to be twaddle."
In fact, research shows that there were widespread attempts to suppress the vote in the 2012 elections. Supporters of voter ID laws, the most common voter suppression measures, claimed that they would combat "voter fraud." However, such fraud is virtually non-existent.
Acknowledging that concern for voter fraud is a pretext, some state officials admitted that voting restrictions were enacted to influence the outcome of the election. For example, Florida officials acknowledged that efforts to curb access to early voting were intended to decrease Democratic votes:
Wayne Bertsch, who handles local and legislative races for Republicans, said he knew targeting Democrats was the goal.
"In the races I was involved in in 2008, when we started seeing the increase of turnout and the turnout operations that the Democrats were doing in early voting, it certainly sent a chill down our spines. And in 2008, it didn't have the impact that we were afraid of. It got close, but it wasn't the impact that they had this election cycle," Bertsch said, referring to the fact that Democrats picked up seven legislative seats in Florida in 2012 despite the early voting limitations.
Another GOP consultant, who did not want to be named, also confirmed that influential consultants to the Republican Party of Florida were intent on beating back Democratic turnout in early voting after 2008.
In 2008 Democrats, especially African-Americans, turned out in unprecedented numbers for President Barack Obama, many of them casting ballots during 14 early voting days. In Palm Beach County, 61.2 percent of all early voting ballots were cast by Democrats that year, compared with 18.7 percent by Republicans.
In one of his final opinions as a Supreme Court Justice, Hugo Black in the 1971 Pentagon Papers case wrote that "The Government's power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government." The Court's 6-3 decision granted the Washington Post and New York Times permission to resume publishing a comprehensive and classified government history of the Vietnam War. The permission was granted over the "national security" objections of the Nixon administration. Black's opinion stressed that the "press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people."
The Pentagon Papers case revolved around the more traditional press debate regarding prior restraint: if and when the government has the right to stop news organizations from disseminating sensitive information. The Supreme Court's landmark 1931 media ruling, Near v. Minnesota, declared that almost all forms of prior restraint were unconstitutional. One of the few exceptions included issues of national security.*
Of course, the recent Obama administration controversies surrounding freedom of the press revolve around national security and the intense prosecutorial efforts by the government to weed out leakers of classified information. Rather than trying to stop journalists from reporting national security news, federal law enforcement seems preoccupied with snooping around, in increasingly clandestine ways, and ensnaring reporters in criminal investigations.
Whether it was the Department of Justice's wild overreach in seizing phone records of more than 20 separate telephone lines used by Associated Press editors and reporters, or the Department's more focused, yet even more troubling, information grab of a Fox News reporter, the practice is wrong and shortsighted. It's also un-American.
The Founding Fathers had the foresight to carve out extraordinary privileges and protections for the press, and for centuries they have endured. So why now turn our storied First Amendment into the Sort Of First Amendment or the When It's Convenient First Amendment?
Imagine what international observers must be thinking as they watch the U.S. government, in the name of leak investigations, chisel away at one of America's most famous contributions to the democratic way of life: Freedom of the press.
Yet it's also important to note that despite some of the heated rhetoric in recent days, there's little evidence that the federal government is waging some sort of all-out war on journalism (that it's "spying" on reporters), or that it's set out a dangerous new policy to "criminalize" the craft. And no, Fox News certainly hasn't been "targeted" by the Obama administration, despite Fox's plaintive cries of victimhood in recent days. (There's certainly no evidence to back up Shepard Smith's baseless on-air claim that the Department of Justice "went into" Fox News computer servers and "pulled things out.")
Amid reports that former State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland was nominated by President Obama to a higher post, Fox News immediately engaged its smear machine to launch a false attack on her, claiming she had misled Congress and the American people about terrorist groups possibly involved in the attack on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya.
Politico reported on May 23 that Nuland, who had been "involved in the editing of the administration's talking points on Benghazi," was nominated by Obama to be the assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, a position that requires Senate confirmation. Politico also reported the nomination "could come under scrutiny from Republicans" for her input on the administration's unclassified talking points on the terrorist attack in Benghazi.
Fox News jumped on the news to smear Nuland and continue its long-running attempt to promote Benghazi as a devastating scandal. On May 24, Fox's early morning show Fox & Friends First said that Nuland is "accused" by unnamed people of "misleading Congress and Americans." Co-host Patti Ann Browne continued:
BROWNE: The State Department spokesperson who played a key role in editing the talking points on the Benghazi terror attack is getting a promotion. President Obama has nominated Victoria Nuland as Assistant Secretary of State for Europe. She's accused of misleading Congress and Americans by downplaying the role terrorists played in that attack. This comes as the investigation deepens; several lawmakers are pushing to interview 13 top State Department officials, including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
On Fox & Friends, guest co-host Anna Kooiman suggested that Nuland was "being promoted for politics," and asked, "where's the accountability?" The following graphic aired during the segment:
But recently released administration emails which document the process of drafting the Benghazi talking points show that it's Fox News that is being misleading.
Bill O'Reilly ignored reality and claimed that "President Obama is not holding anyone accountable" for the actions of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) after an Inspector General report found the agency gave extra scrutiny to tea party groups' tax status applications. O'Reilly failed to mention the fact that the Obama administration has fired Steven Miller, the acting commissioner of the IRS, placed Lois Lerner, the director of the tax-exempt organizations division at the IRS, on administrative leave, and that Attorney General Eric Holder ordered a criminal investigation into the case.
On the May 23 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly told guest Ben Stein, "I think to be fair on this we have to say a few things definitely. That President Obama is not holding anyone accountable. That's absolutely true." O'Reilly then claimed that the president should "be scolded for that," and that Lerner should have been suspended immediately.
But President Obama and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew forced Miller out as a "first step," with President Obama promising to "do everything in my power" to stop future targeting. On May 23, the acting IRS commissioner placed Lois Lerner on administrative leave after she refused his request that she resign. And Attorney General Eric Holder announced on May 14 that the Justice Department would work with the FBI to see if any laws were broken in relation to the IRS case.
Fox News' scandal machine, eager for a new target after the collapse of its Benghazi investigations, has been whitewashing Mr. Obama's response from the start. Some in the right wing media are even using the opportunity to call for a special prosecutor.