U.S. Rep. Phil Roe took President Barack Obama’s administration to task Thursday for three internal scandals that won’t go away.
Those situations are the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of tax-exempt conservative groups for extra and unwarranted scrutiny; ongoing unanswered questions related to the Sept. 11, 2012, attack that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, at a U.S. facility in Benghazi, Libya; and the U.S. Justice Department obtaining Associated Press phone records without the news agency’s consent.
“One of the things that disturbs me about all this is we all have a healthy angst about government agencies and government getting too big. ... This plays into our fear about that. This just affirms that fear,” Roe, R-Tenn., said during a conference call with reporters.
In a statement released Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Va., said of what he called the “abuse-of-power” scandals: “What has happened to the days in America when Democratic President Harry Truman proudly placed a placard on his desk that says ‘The buck stops here?’
“Perhaps we have returned to the days where the question to the president of the United States ought to be: What did you know and when did you know it?”
Roe said the actions by the IRS, which resulted in the ouster of acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller, absolutely floored him.
“We haven’t even begun to find out what happened there. ... You have an administration that uses an arm of government to strong-arm people who oppose them. That is a very dangerous path to be on,” Roe said. “I think we have to find out what went on there.”
Obama released a statement Tuesday addressing the IRS controversy.
“The IRS must apply the law in a fair and impartial way, and its employees must act with utmost integrity. ... Regardless of how this conduct was allowed to take place, the bottom line is it was wrong,” the statement said.
Concerning the attack on U.S. facilities at Benghazi, Roe said he was incensed that it took eight months before Greg Hicks, the No. 2 U.S. diplomat in Libya, was allowed to give his personal account of the attack to lawmakers.
Roe was also upset the military wasn’t allowed to stage a rescue or recovery operation after the attack.
“I think the Benghazi issue was a failure of leadership,” Roe said. “How high does it go? I think it goes all the way to the top. ... When I served in the military, it never dawned on me that my country would leave me behind if a war broke out. We don’t leave people behind, and we did in Benghazi. We abandoned those people. It’s wrong. ... Losing an ambassador is a huge deal. It hasn’t happened in 30 years in this country. It’s an act of war against the U.S. government. We haven’t apprehended anybody yet for that crime.”
Roe called the Justice Department’s seizure of AP phone records “chilling.”
White House spokesman Jay Carney responded by reminding the news media of the president’s support for a shield law for reporters.
When asked Wednesday if Obama is as troubled by the subpoena of AP phone records as he is by the actions of the IRS, Carney responded: “What I can tell you is that when there are criminal investigations undertaken by the Department of Justice, we do not have insight into or knowledge about them — and that is the way it should be — methods or other information that should not be and is not shared.”
Said Roe: “The First Amendment (freedom of speech) separates us from any country in the world, and guarantees the right of a free press. I may disagree with what you say about me, but I absolutely support your right to say it. ... This was used for political purposes. ... This is how your government is not supposed to work. We have to trust that our government is obeying the law. It appears it is not.”
Each of these situations, Roe added, has tainted “good, hard-working” federal government employees.
“They’ve had a black eye by all of this,” Roe said.