I interviewed Senator Vitter about all of the D.C. scandals today, with a focus on the EPA. (The news on the AP sweep by DOJ had just broken so he didn’t even know about that one yet.) The complete transcript is here. Bottom line takeaway about the nomination of Gina McCarthy:
HH: Would you fill in our audience why the Gina McCarthy hearings are so important, and whether or not you’ve got the information you need to vote on her nomination as a Senator?
DV: Well you know, after President Obama four years ago promised the most open and transparent administration in history, unfortunately, the landscape since then is a landscape of completely broken promises in that regard. And EPA is the single worst example in terms of an Obama agency. Email scandals using private email accounts, completely improper under federal law and practice, using fake names, clearly something used to avoid transparency and avoid information getting out, FOIA requests regularly being frustrated, complete lack of transparency and information with regard to the release of scientific data and studies that are supposedly behind their regulations, sue and settle agreements which are often negotiated in a very secretive, behind closed doors way with allied, left-leaning environmental groups. So it’s a clear pattern of lack of transparency. And that’s what we’ve been talking about and demanding answers and changes to in terms of this Gina McCarthy nomination.
HH: Have you determined yet whether or not Gina McCarthy sent or received emails from the fake accounts intended to deceive the public and avoid FOIA?
DV: I believe she personally did not. At least she’s testified with regard to that, that she did not under oath.
HH: And so if there’s any email, did she testify as well that she hadn’t received any from the former administrator, that originated from…
DV: Oh, she may have received some of those so-called Richard Windsor emails, yes. I don’t think she participated directly by having an alias herself, or using a private account. But she undoubtedly received some of those Richard Windsor emails. That’s part of our ongoing dispute to actually get those un-redacted emails, which we still have not gotten.
HH: Well then, Senator Vitter, one of two things is true. If you get an email from Richard Windsor, and it turns out to be Lisa Jackson, who’s your boss…
HH: Then you know, either you are too dumb to realize she’s engaged in a subterfuge of federal law, or you’re willing to be complicit in that subterfuge. It’s sort of like receiving stolen property. Is that an issue for you?
DV: Yeah, because Gina McCarthy has been at the EPA for four years, and it’s been four years of a horrendous record of lack of transparency. And she’s not exactly been at a low level job. She’s been at the most important air job at that EPA except for the director. So her whole tenure there, as all of these problems have persisted, is a big problem, yes.
HH: You see, I’m driving in on if you are receiving emails from an account obviously established to avoid federal law…
HH: …do you think that’s enough, Senator Vitter, not to vote for her to be, as the nominee, because I do. I think if you’re part of a cover up scheme, and avoidance scheme, you’re part of an avoidance scheme. How would we trust you with an agency that is so powerful?
DV: Well, that’s going to get into whether these aliases were only about trying to hide things from the public. And you know, their argument is this was just another email account used because the general account gets so much traffic and gets so much stuff dumped into it, wasn’t patently illegal, although it was clearly contrary to their policy. So it’s a little in the gray area. What I think is even more worrisome is that Gina has been there for four years at a very high-ranking position as all of these problems have persisted, whether it’s emails or lack of straightforwardness in terms of FOIA requests, or sue and settle, secret negotiations behind closed doors, not getting the data and scientific studies out that are supposedly behind their regulations, not having true cost benefit analysis of economic impacts of these regulations. To me, that big picture is even more worrisome.
HH: It is, and with 45 seconds, do you expect that she will be filibustered?
DV: As of now, there are plenty of holds on her, so yes. As of now, people are going to demand significant debate on the floor, and a 60 vote threshold.
HH: And do you expect that the rules will change because the President wants a rather aggressive left-leaning, or very left-leaning administrator? Will they go to the nuclear option to get her into position?
DV: No, I don’t think they’ll go over this. They may push her through notwithstanding the 60 vote requirement, but I don’t think they’ll change the rules over this.