Congressional Oversight | Media Matters for America

Congressional Oversight

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  • Conservative media downplay the Trump administration's unprecedented stonewalling of congressional oversight

    ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    As legal experts, historians, and Democratic lawmakers have sounded the alarm over President Donald Trump’s blanket obstruction of congressional oversight of his presidency -- suggesting we have reached or are approaching a constitutional crisis -- Trump’s conservative media allies are brazenly misrepresenting the arguments and suggesting everything boils down to a fight over the Mueller report, claiming Trump’s obstruction is normal, and ridiculing Democrats for speaking out.

  • FLASHBACK: Fox Primetime Devoted Three Segments To Dem Call For Gonzales Perjury Counsel

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    This afternoon, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, called for a special counsel to investigate whether Attorney General Eric Holder perjured himself over comments he made over the botched ATF gunrunning sting Operation Fast and Furious. Fox News immediately aired a "News Alert" report detailing these allegations; they have since devoted several segments to the charges.

    It's worth pointing out that no such coverage was provided by the network's primetime lineup in 2007, when Senate Democrats accused then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales of perjuring himself in congressional testimony about President Bush's domestic surveillance program. At the time, Fox's evening lineup devoted a total of three segments to the Senate Democrats' call for a special prosecutor, all on Fox News' Special Report, totaling less than 12 minutes of coverage.*

    In segments on the July 26, 27, and 30 editions of Special Report, Fox personalities repeatedly downplayed the allegations against Gonzales or suggested that the Senate Democrats were politically motivated. Special Report host Brit Hume asked: "Did Attorney General Alberto Gonzales lie under oath in a senate hearing last week or was he carefully parsing words about two elements of the same terrorist surveillance program? Even if he were doing the latter, would it satisfy senators who were calling for his scalp?" Bret Baier asked whether Democrats are "barking up the wrong tree, calling this perjury"; Charles Krauthammer replied that they were.

  • Emails Debunk IBD's "The White House Knew" Claim

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Last night, Investor's Business Daily published an editorial which claimed that a chain of emails indicate that a White House staffer sought and received information about the ATF's failed Operation Fast and Furious from the ATF special agent who oversaw the initiative. According to the editorial, this proves that "the White House knew" about the operation. Unfortunately for IBD, this claim evaporated before the paper hit the newsstands after the Los Angeles Times got ahold of the emails in question and reported that they reveal nothing of the sort.

    Detailing the exchange between William Newell, ATF special agent in charge of the Phoenix office, and his longtime friend Kevin O'Reilly, a National Security Council staffer, IBD wrote in typical conspiratorial fashion:

    Newell sent O'Reilly the requested information with the caveat, "You didn't get this from me."

    Why was a National Security Council staffer asking about an operation that no one in the upper echelons of the administration was supposed to be aware of? We find it hard to believe it was for O'Reilly's personal amusement. Why would Newell request that he not be acknowledged as the source?


    Administration officials have taken the Sgt. Schultz "we knew nothing" approach to any inquiries, only to be tripped up by their own words and actions.

    Newell's email to O'Reilly is evidence that at least one person in the White House did.

    After reviewing the actual email chain, LAT's Richard Serrano wrote: "The ATF's field supervisor on the Southwest border sent a series of emails last year to a top White House national security official detailing the agency's ambitious efforts to stop weapons trafficking into Mexico, but did not mention that a botched sting operation had allowed hundreds of guns to flow to drug cartels."

    Indeed, the emails show O'Reilly reaching out to Newell for information about the ATF's Gun Runner Impact Team (GRIT), a separate initiative that deployed scores of agents to Arizona and New Mexico on a short term basis. According to ATF, "GRIT special agents initiated 174 firearms trafficking-related criminal investigations and seized approximately 1,300 illegally-trafficked firearms and 71,000 rounds of ammunition, along with drugs and currency." O'Reilly was seeking information about GRIT in order to brief White House counterterrorism advisor John Brennan about the operation in preparation for a meeting with Mexican officials.