Cummings Issues Statement on
Unilateral Issa Subpoena to White House Attorney
Washington, D.C. (June 23, 2014)—Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, issued the following statement in response to a unilateral subpoena issued by Committee Chairman Darrell Issa to Jennifer O’Connor, who currently works in the White House Counsel’s office. O’Connor worked previously at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) from May to November 2013, but she left months before recent discoveries about Lois Lerner’s emails:
“Rather than engaging in a serious effort to obtain the facts about Lois Lerner’s emails, Chairman Issa tried last week to one-up his fellow Republican Committee Chairman, Dave Camp, in an unseemly race to hold the first public hearing on Lerner’s computer crash in 2011. Having failed at this effort, Chairman Issa is now trying to generate additional headlines with unsubstantiated links to the White House, apparently without fully understanding the facts about the witness he subpoenaed. These actions undermine the credibility of our Committee and our work.”
Issa Failed Attempt to One-Up Chairman Camp
On June 17, 2014, Chairman Dave Camp announced that the House Ways and Means Committee would be holding a hearing with IRS Commissioner John Koskinen on Tuesday, June 24.
About ten minutes later, Issa issued a unilateral subpoena to compel Koskinen to testify before the Oversight Committee at 7 p.m. the night before, attempting to beat Camp by holding the first hearing.
In response, Camp moved his hearing up to last Friday, June 20.
At Friday’s hearing, Koskinen testified in great detail about contemporaneous emails from 2011 showing that Lerner reached out to IRS IT staff for help at the time and that they tried to recover her hard drive, but were unsuccessful.
According to a report by the Inspector General in May 2013, Lerner was not informed that IRS employees in Cincinnati were using inappropriate criteria until June 29, 2011—two weeks after her computer crashed and before any congressional or Inspector General investigation.
On June 18, 2014, the White House sent a letter to Congress stating: “We conducted a search for responsive documents and were unable to identify any communications between Lois Lerner and persons within the EOP [Executive Office of the President] during the requested period.”
There is no evidence of “nefarious” conduct, as Issa suggested before Friday’s hearing.
Issa Rushing to Invite Former IRS Official Who Left Months Before Recent Lerner Email Discoveries
After Issa lost his race to Camp last week, he announced that he would be adding a second day of his own hearings on Tuesday, June 24.
On June 19, 2014, he rushed to send an invitation letter to Jennifer O’Connor, who “served in a career position at the IRS as the Counselor to the Commissioner, with the primary task of ‘navigat[ing] the scandal over [the IRS’s] reviews of conservative organizations.”
Issa’s letter noted that O’Connor served at the IRS from “May 2013 until November 2013.”
As Koskinen testified last Friday, however, IRS officials “learned there was a problem—a potential problem in February” of 2014, and “it wasn’t until into May that we understood and were able to complete the investigation” and “determine how many emails were available and how many were not.”
In other words, O’Connor left the IRS months before these discoveries occurred. It is unclear whether Issa understood this fact when he rushed to send his invitation to O’Connor a day before Koskinen testified about these facts.
Issa Now Seeking Headlines With Unsubstantiated Links to White House
Chairman Issa’s invitation to O’Connor has less to do with her previous work at the IRS and more to do with seeking headlines about her current position at the White House.
After Issa sent his invitation letter to O’Connor, he immediately issued this press release: “Issa Requests White House Attorney’s Testimony on Lerner Emails.”
The first line of the press release highlights O’Connor’s current position in “the White House Counsel’s office” and asserts that she “earned a promotion to the White House earlier this year.”
Still No Evidence of White House Involvement or Political Motivation
Since Issa launched his investigation, he has tried unsuccessfully to identify any evidence to support his unsubstantiated claims that the White House was involved with inappropriate search terms used to screen applicants for tax exempt status.
During the course of Issa’s investigation, none of the 41 witnesses interviewed by Committee staff identified any White House involvement or political motivation.
In addition, the report issued by the Inspector General in May 2013 stated that the Cincinnati Determinations Unit “developed and implemented inappropriate criteria,” and these employees reported that they “were not influenced by any individual or organization outside the IRS.”
During a hearing before the Ways and Means Committee on May 17, 2013, the Inspector General was asked by Ranking Member Sander Levin whether he had found “any evidence of political motivation in the selection of the tax exempt applicants.” In response, the Inspector General answered: “We did not, sir.”