Let history note that the worst abuse-of-power scandal in modern history was not without its moments of dark comedy. Breitbart News reports on what might be the funniest wrong-number phone call ever:
A senior communications aide to Attorney General Eric Holder seemingly called House oversight committee chairman Darrell Issa’s staff by accident and asked for their help spinning new revelations about the IRS scandal, Issa said in a September 8 letter to Holder.
The aide, Brian Fallon, is a former senior aide to Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and a well-known personality on Capitol Hill. The letter describes Fallon as “audibly shaken” when he realizes his request to leak documents to help get ahead of news stories about them was mistakenly made to the very office he was seeking to undermine. Issa believes the call was intended to be made to Democratic Rep. Elijah Cumming’s staff, the ranking member on the oversight panel, the letter said.
According to the letter, Fallon – who is not named in the letter but confirmed he made the call – asked if the aides could release the IRS scandal documents to “selected reporters” to give Fallon an “opportunity to comment publicly on it.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings is a major player in the IRS scandal, one of the top Democrats involved in turning the Tax Exempt Organizations division into a political weapon, and the point man for stonewalling congressional investigations. Cummings denied his involvement in the scheme until hard evidence was uncovered last April, proving that his staff was in direct communication with the IRS, requesting information on conservative group True the Vote. Of course that’s who the Attorney General’s aide thought he was calling.
Wait, this gets even better:
Fallon explained to Issa aides that the Justice Department’s Office of Legislative Affairs had not permitted him to release the documents to the public and he wanted to get ahead of the story “before the Majority” – meaning Issa – could share it, according to the letter.
Issa aides – who had placed the call on speakerphone – were “caught off guard by the unusual nature of the call and the odd request” and asked Fallon to “e-mail the material for evaluation.”
“At this point,” Fallon “abruptly placed the call on hold for approximately three minutes.” When Fallon returned to the call, “he was audibly shaken. He immediately stated that there was a ‘change in plans’ and that there would be no effort” by DOJ to release the material early.
Fallon “proceeded to pitch the idea that the Department and the Committee should ‘help one another’ while simultaneously saying that ‘you need to say what you need to say.’”
I wonder if he needed help changing his underwear after he hung up. I know it’s a lot to ask, but if any of Issa’s aides happened to make a smartphone video recording the reaction in their meeting room while this damn fool asked them for help leaking some documents, I’ll bet it’s funnier than half the comedies released last summer. The expressions on their faces must have been priceless. I’ll bet a donut at least one person in the room was silently mouthing Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? while someone else made shushing motions. The scene where Rep. Issa’s staff brought the boss up to speed on the phone call must also have been interesting.
Issa was not happy to learn that the Justice Department’s “Office of Public Affairs” evidently considers part of its mission to be working with congressional partisans to conduct scandal management operations. “In this day and age, emails and other electronic communications are sometimes erroneously shared, but I am nonetheless disturbed to receive confirmation through this incident of apparently longstanding collaboration between the Obama Administration and Ranking Member Cummings’ staff to obfuscate and prejudice the Committee’s work through under-the-table coordination,” Issa wrote to Holder. “This highly partisan and combative approach to oversight by the Department shows a disregard for the independent investigatory prerogatives of Congress and a deliberate attempt to influence the course of a congressional investigation. This approach is unseemly for our nation’s chief law enforcement agency and inconsistent with the longstanding Congressional practice of ensuring that both the Majroity and Minority have equal access to information provided by Executive Branch agencies.”
“Unseemly” is, if anything, an understated choice of word on the Chairman’s part. Try to imagine the media firestorm that would erupt if this had been someone from Attorney General John Ashcroft’s office trying to get in touch with congressional Republicans for help leaking documents related to a Bush Administration scandal. Of course, no Republican administration could possibly have survived the IRS scandal – it would have been given obsessive breaking-news saturation coverage until there were riots in the streets.
Issa concludes his letter to the Attorney General by asking for “a detailed explanation for each of the [Justice] Department’s ex parte communications with the Minority Members or staff about Committee investigations or strategies for blocking and undermining oversight.” Something tells me that sort of candor won’t be forthcoming from Eric “Stonewall” Holder. Oh, well… at least banana-republic government gave us a few laughs along the way.