Weekly Update: McCain Staffer Suggested Financially Ruinous Audits to Lois Lerner
JUNE 22, 2018
McCain’s Subcommittee Staff Director Urged IRS to Target Conservative Groups
JW Sues for Mueller Deputy Andrew Weissmann’s Text Messages
Judicial Watch Seeks Obama-Era Records on Refugee Resettlement Sites
The Strange Case of McAuliffe & McCabe — Another Clinton/FBI Scandal
Little is as unnerving as trouble with the IRS, especially if you haven’t done anything wrong. That happened repeatedly during the Obama administration, as his IRS enthusiastically targeted conservative groups.
We’re now understanding why the Congress didn’t do much of anything about it.
We just released internal IRS documents revealing that Sen. John McCain’s Former Staff Director and Chief Counsel on the Senate Homeland Security Permanent Subcommittee, Henry Kerner, urged top IRS officials, including then-director of exempt organizations, Lois Lerner, to “audit so many that it becomes financially ruinous.” President Trump, presumably unaware of these new facts, appointed Kerner as Special Counsel for the United States Office of Special Counsel.
The explosive exchange was contained in notes taken by IRS employees at an April 30, 2013, meeting between Kerner, Lerner, and other high-ranking IRS officials. Just ten days following the meeting, Lois Lerner admitted that the IRS had a policy of improperly and deliberately delaying applications for tax-exempt status from conservative non-profit groups.
Lerner and other IRS officials met with select top staffers from the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee in a “marathon” meeting to discuss concerns raised by both Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) that the IRS was not reining in political advocacy groups in response to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. Senator McCain had been the chief sponsor of the McCain-Feingold Act and called the Citizens United decision, which overturned portions of the Act, one of the “worst decisions I have ever seen.”
In the full notes of an April 30 meeting, McCain’s high-ranking staffer Kerner recommends harassing non-profit groups until they are unable to continue operating. Kerner tells Lerner, Steve Miller, Nikole Flax, then chief of staff to IRS commissioner, and other IRS officials, “Maybe the solution is to audit so many that it is financially ruinous.” In response, Lerner responded that “it is her job to oversee it all:”
We previously reported on the 2013 meeting. Senator McCain then issued a statement decrying “false reports claiming that his office was somehow involved in IRS targeting of conservative groups.” The IRS previously blacked out the notes of the meeting, but we found the notes among subsequent documents released by the agency.
We separately uncovered that Lerner was under significant pressure from both Democrats in Congress and the Obama DOJ and FBI to prosecute and jail the groups the IRS was already improperly targeting. In discussing pressure from Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (Democrat-Rhode Island) to prosecute these “political groups,” Lerner admitted, “it is ALL about 501(c)(4) orgs and political activity.”
The April 30, 2013 meeting came just under two weeks prior to Lerner’s admission during an ABA meeting that the IRS had “inappropriately” targeted conservative groups. In her May 2013 answer to a planted question, in which she admitted to the “absolutely incorrect, insensitive, and inappropriate” targeting of Tea Party and conservative groups, Lerner suggested the IRS targeting occurred due to an “uptick” in 501 (c)(4) applications to the IRS but in actuality, there had been a decrease in such applications in 2010.
On May 14, 2013, a report by Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administrationrevealed: “Early in Calendar Year 2010, the IRS began using inappropriate criteria to identify organizations applying for tax-exempt status” (e.g., lists of past and future donors). The illegal IRS reviews continued “for more than 18 months” and “delayed processing of targeted groups’ applications” in advance of the 2012 presidential election.
All these documents were forced out of the IRS as a result of an October 2013 Judicial Watch Freedom of Information (FOIA) lawsuit filed against the IRS after it failed to respond adequately to four FOIA requests sent in May 2013 (Judicial Watch, Inc. v. Internal Revenue Service (No. 1:13-cv-01559)). Judicial Watch is seeking:
- All records related to the number of applications received or related to communications between the IRS and members of the U.S. House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate regarding the review process for organizations applying for tax exempt status under 501(c)(4);
- All records concerning communications between the IRS and the Executive Branch or any other government agency regarding the review process for organizations applying for tax exempt status under 501(c)(4);
- Copies of any questionnaires and all records related to the preparation of questionnaires sent to organizations applying for 501(c)(4) tax exempt status and;
- All records related to Lois Lerner’s communication with other IRS employees, as well as government or private entity outside the IRS regarding the review and approval process for 501 (c)(4) applicant organizations.
The Obama IRS scandal is bipartisan – McCain and Democrats who wanted to regulate political speech lost at the Supreme Court, so they sought to use the IRS to harass innocent Americans. The Obama IRS scandal is not over. We continue to uncover smoking gun documents that raise questions about how the Obama administration weaponized the IRS, the FEC, FBI, and DOJ to target the First Amendment Rights of Americans.
This week we learned that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein hid from Congress a text message by FBI official Peter Strzok declaring that Trump wouldn’t become President:
The highly partisan Strzok became a lead player in Robert Mueller’s Russian collusion investigation of Donald Trump. Also, and still, in the lead is Andrew Weissmann, a senior deputy for Special Counsel Robert Mueller and a former chief of the Justice Department criminal Fraud Division.
Now the question is: What was Weissmann saying about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton? We will find out.
Our legal team just filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit asking the court to compel the Department of Justice to produce “all text messages to or from DOJ official Andrew Weissmann” regarding President Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:18-cv-01356)).
We sued after the DOJ failed to respond to our December 15, 2017, FOIA request for:
- All text messages sent to or from DOJ official Andrew Weissmann regarding Donald Trump and/or Hillary Clinton between August 8, 2016 and the present.
- All calendar entries, whether in physical or electronic form, for Weissmann from January 1, 2015 to the present.
We’re not at all surprised that the Justice Department didn’t respond, given its deplorable record of transparency.
Weissmann’s objectivity in Mueller’s investigation was called into question in December 2017 when a separate JW FOIA lawsuit uncovered an email Weissmann wrote praising former acting Attorney General Sally Yates for defying Trump on enforcement of the President’s so-called travel ban.
Weissmann wrote to Obama appointee Yates in the email: “I am so proud. And in awe. Thank you so much. All my deepest respects.” President Trump fired Yates over her refusal to defend the policy. Yates was appointed by President Obama and was serving in an acting capacity as Attorney General for President Trump.
Also in December 2017, the Wall Street Journal reported that Weissmann had been in attendance at Hillary Clinton’s 2016 election night party. According to the Washington Post, Weissman contributed more than $4,000 to the Obama Victory Fund in 2008 and $2,300 to the Clinton campaign in 2007.
Weissmann, described by The New York Times as Mueller’s “pit bull,” is the lead prosecutor in the Mueller team’s case against former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.
Weissmann is demonstrably an anti-Trump/pro-Clinton activist. And it is suspicious that the Justice Department refuses to turn over any Weissmann text messages, especially given the anti-Trump bias documented in the FBI”s Strzok-Page texts.
While the professional Left has successfully diverted everyone’s attention to a manufactured crisis involving illegal alien children on our Southern border, we are investigating other ways people flow into our country.
In particular, we continue to look at the UN-sponsored refugee program that has brought dangerous people across our borders. During the Obama administration, pro-refugee officials in several places gamed this system to disguise their intent.
We have filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia for records on sites that were considered for the resettlement of refugees in the United States during the last two years of the Obama administration. (Judicial Watch vs. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:18-cv-01244))
We sued after the State Department failed to respond to our February 23, 2017, FOIA request for:
- All records reflecting the locations within the United States that were considered as possible sites for refugee resettlement under the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) in 2015 and 2016.
- All records reflecting the criteria used to determine suitability of locations as refugee resettlement sites in 2015 and 2016.
- All records reflecting the names of local organizations promoting any of the locations identified above for consideration as refugee resettlement sites.
In October 2016 we made public 128 pages of documents we obtained from the mayor of Rutland, Vermont, showing a concerted effort by the mayor and a number of private organizations to conceal from the public their plans to resettle 100 Syrian refugees into the small southern Vermont town. The mayor and resettlement organizations shrouded the plan in such secrecy that not even the town’s aldermen were informed of what was taking place behind closed doors. The aldermen eventually wrote to the U.S. Department of State protesting the plan and opened an investigation into the mayor’s actions.
The State Department says it currently works with nine nonprofit organizations to resettle refugees. Those nonprofits have about 315 affiliates in 180 communities throughout the U.S.
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the U.S. admitted 84,994 refugees during fiscal year 2016, just short of the 85,000 target set by the Obama administration. The U.S. admitted 16,370 refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo, 12,587 from Syria, 12,347 from Myanmar, 9,880 from Iraq and 9,020 from Somalia. Pew Research reports that nearly 39,000 Muslim refugees entered the U.S. in fiscal year 2016, the highest number on record, according to analysis of data from the State Department’s Refugee Processing Center.
In fiscal year 2015, the U.S. reportedly admitted 70,000 refugees. The Obama administration also proposed admitting 110,000 refugees for fiscal year 2017.
President Donald Trump on January 27, 2017 issued Executive Order 13769, which included a suspension of the USRAP for 120 days. There were 29,022 refugees reportedly admitted to the U.S. in 2017 – the lowest number since 2002.
In a July 2017 report on the refugee applicant screening process and associated fraud risks, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) noted that, “Increases in the number of USRAP applicants approved for resettlement in the United States from countries where terrorists operate have raised questions about the adequacy of applicant screening.”
We are suing to find out which towns across America were, without input and over the objections of residents, targeted for refugee settlements by the Obama administration.
And to make sure the Deep State isn’t up to its usual tricks, we are investigating to make sure now that the current State Department is being more transparent and honest in its placement of refugees.
You won’t hear from this from the liberal media, but the IG report is chock full of facts and scandal leads that go way beyond Clinton emails and the “get Trump” fever that overtook the FBI leadership. As our own Micah Morrison points out in his latest Investigative Bulletin piece, raises more questions about other players in the Clintons’ orbit:
Every student of American politics knows that Terry McAuliffe is that swampiest of swamp creatures, the cool cat with the big bucks. Al Gore called him “the greatest fundraiser in the history of the universe.” In 1996 alone, as national finance chairman of the Clinton-Gore re-election team, McAuliffe raised $50 million, but plunged the Democratic Party into a sweeping campaign-finance scandal involving the sale of sleepovers in the Lincoln Bedroom, coffee klatches at the White House, a vast cast of sketchy characters and rivers of money. The Clintons loved the ebullient money man and he loved them back. By 1999, McAuliffe claimed to have raised nearly $275 million for the Arkansas couple—and that’s before he joined forces with the Clinton’s 21st century money machine, the Clinton Foundation and Clinton Global Initiative. In 2000, he was named chairman of the Democratic National Committee. In 2008, he chaired Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. In 2013, with enthusiastic support from the Clintons, he ran for governor of Virginia and won.
By 2015, Governor McAuliffe already was “shaping a significant role for himself” in Mrs. Clinton’s second try at the presidency, Politico reported. A “consummate political animal, [McAuliffe] just can’t keep his fingers away from the flame. Despite the daily demands of running the state…he’s emerging as Hillary’s informal liaison to governors and the party’s biggest donors, while also keeping a finger on the pulse of the camp’s central operations in Brooklyn.”
By contrast, even today, in the wake of hundreds of media stories and last week’s Office of Inspector General report on alleged wrongdoing in the 2016 election, few people will recognize the name Andrew McCabe. He’s a swamp inhabitant too, though many would put him on the right side of the swamp, on dry land, chasing the bad guys. Except that’s not quite how it turned out.
Many of the McCabe details in the OIG report will come as no surprise to Judicial Watch followers. We’ve been uncovering facts about the McCabe affair for over a year. Read about our efforts here, here, and here.
A useful timeline in the OIG report sketches the McCabe-McAuliffe saga—a swamp tale of a particular sort. In 2014, McCabe, a rising star at the FBI, is assistant director of the bureau’s Washington, DC, field office. His wife is a pediatrician in Virginia. Terry McAuliffe is governor.
In February 2015, Dr. McCabe receives a phone call from Virginia’s lieutenant governor. Would she consider running for a state senate seat?
Less than two weeks later, in March 2015, McCabe and his wife drive to Richmond for what they thought was a meeting with a Virginia state senator to discuss Dr. McCabe’s possible run for office.
In Richmond, according to the OIG report, they are told there had been “a change of plans” and that “Governor McAuliffe wanted to speak to Dr. McCabe at the Governor’s mansion.”
It’s around this time that a veteran FBI agent’s radar might start blinking.
McCabe and his wife meet with McAuliffe for 30 to 45 minutes, according to the OIG report. Fundraising was discussed. “Governor McAuliffe said that he and the Democratic Party would support Dr. McCabe’s candidacy.” McAuliffe asked McCabe about his occupation and “McCabe told him he worked for the FBI but they did not discuss McCabe’s work or any FBI business.” McCabe later described it to an FBI official as a “surreal meeting.”
After the meeting, the couple rode to a local event with the governor, then returned to the mansion with the governor to retrieve their car.
McCabe informed FBI ethics officials and lawyers about the meeting and consulted with them about his wife’s plans. No one raised strong objections. McCabe recused himself from all public corruption cases in Virginia and Dr. McCabe jumped into the race.
In July 2015, the FBI opened an investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s email practices.
Let’s pause to note here that while the official FBI investigation was opened in July 2015, Mrs. Clinton was known to be in hot water as far back as March 2015, when the State Department inspector general revealed her widespread use of a private, non-government email server.
Swamp cats will notice that March 2015 is also when Andrew and Jill McCabe got their surprise audience with McAuliffe, the longtime Clinton money man.
The McCabe fortunes rose in the autumn of 2015. Mr. McCabe was promoted to associate deputy director of the FBI. Dr. McCabe received $675,000 from two McAuliffe-connected entities for her state senate race. They were by far the biggest donations to her campaign.
In November 2015, Dr. McCabe lost her race.
In January 2016, the FBI opened an investigation into the Clinton Foundation.
On February 1, Mr. McCabe was promoted again, to deputy director of the FBI.
Despite the McAuliffe connection, the OIG report notes, there was no FBI re-evaluation of McCabe’s recusals following his promotions. Although recused from Virginia public corruption investigations, he retained a senior role in Clinton-related matters.
In May 2016, news broke that McAuliffe was under FBI investigation for campaign finance violations. CNN reported that investigators were scrutinizing “McAuliffe’s time as a board member of the Clinton Global Initiative” and Chinese businessman Wang Wenliang, a U.S. permanent resident who made large donations to both the McAuliffe 2013 gubernatorial campaign and to the Clinton Foundation.
On October 23, the Wall Street Journal revealed the McAuliffe-linked donations to Dr. McCabe’s campaign. At FBI headquarters, McCabe resists pressure from senior executives to recuse himself from all Clinton-related matters.
Finally, on November 1—a week before the presidential election — McCabe recused from the Clinton email and Clinton Foundation investigations.
Following James Comey’s dismissal in May 2017, McCabe was briefly acting director of the FBI—the most powerful law enforcement position in the land. Following the appointment of Chris Wray as director, McCabe returned to the deputy director position and, as controversy engulfed him and the FBI, he went on paid leave. Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired him in March, 2018. The Justice Department inspector general has referred a possible criminal case against McCabe to federal prosecutors for lying to internal investigators in an earlier probe of the Wall Street Journal story and leaks.
One of the strangest claims in the OIG report is that the senior leadership of the FBI was not aware of — or perhaps simply did not care about — McAuliffe’s long history with the Clintons. “We were troubled,” the OIG report notes, “by the fact that the FBI ethics officials and attorneys did not fully appreciate the potential significant implications to McCabe and the FBI from campaign contributions to Dr. McCabe’s campaign and did not implement any review of those campaign donations. Thus, while the same factual circumstances that led to McCabe’s recusal on November 1, 2016, were present at the time McCabe became deputy director on February 1, 2016, the FBI ethics officials, McCabe, and Comey only learned of them as a result of the October 23 WSJ article.”
It seems likely now that the McCabe chapter of the larger battle in Washington will end with a whimper, not a bang. The beasts—investigative, media, political—move on. But what are we to make of Terry McAuliffe’s role in the episode?
Swamp aficionados will note the sudden “change of plans” that elevated the trip to Richmond from a meeting with a low-level political operative to an encounter with the governor. McAuliffe is charming and charismatic. Money is (vaguely) discussed, and oh by the way, McAuliffe asks McCabe, what is your occupation?
Now, Terry McAuliffe’s connections are legendary. His devotion to the Clinton ambitions is unswerving. He knows everybody, particularly anybody who has any business with the Clintons (remember, the email controversy is about to metastasize) and certainly he knew that Andrew McCabe worked for the FBI before he asked that question. But now McCabe knows that the governor knows. Next, money—a lot of it—flows to Dr. McCabe’s campaign.
Things might have turned out differently, after all. Jill McCabe might have been in the state senate. Hillary Clinton might have been in the White House. And Andrew McCabe was in line to be the next director of the FBI. Some of the best swamp plays are not about greed but ambition.
Until next week …