Senator Mitch McConnell On The Scandal-Plagued Administration
HH: I begin this hour with United States Senator Mitch McConnell from the great state of Kentucky. He is of course the GOP leader in the Senate, and at ground zero of so many of the investigations swirling on Capitol Hill. Senator McConnell, always a pleasure, thanks for joining me.
MM: Glad to be with you, Hugh.
HH: Your reaction to the IRS scandal first. I’ve read the Inspector General report, and it’s a whitewash, in my view. What do you think is going on here?
MM: Look, I’ve been talking about this since June of 2012. There were Tea Party groups in my state complaining about this back then. But you know, it’s bigger than just the IRS, Hugh. Let’s just go back to the Obamacare debate for a moment. Secretary Sebelius, the head of HHS, sent out a directive to health insurance companies saying they couldn’t tell their policy holders how they felt about Obamacare. And now, she’s shaking them down for money to spend on ads trying to convince the American people they ought to like Obamacare. We’ve had similar moves over at the Securities And Exchange Commission by Obama appointees, the Federal Communications Commission by Obama appointees. And now, they’ve messed with the one agency everybody in America really knows about, and that’s the IRS. They’re the one agency with the power to shut us down. And look, this is a huge, huge scandal. You know, we don’t know who knew what and when, we don’t know how high it goes up. But I know the administration’s not going to sufficiently investigate itself. Fortunately, we have a Republican House of Representatives, and the Democrats in the Senate are so embarrassed about this, they may be embarrassed into participating in the kind of genuine investigation, credible investigation, that this abuse certainly deserves. So I think the real investigation will occur in Congress. The IG report, certainly it has some disturbing things in it. This left wing group, Pro Publica, announced yesterday that the IRS had actually given them information on conservative groups. Can you imagine that?
HH: No, I can’t. My colleague at Townhall.com, Carol Platt Liebau, put out a report on the IG report this morning, which lists 27 different sets of questions flowing from it. I put out an analysis after reading it once, and said this raises far more questions than it does answers, and it looks like they began their investigation in early 2012, and we’re just hearing about this in 2013. And moreover, the original notation, I read from Page 31 of the IG’s report, the new acting manager technical unit suggest that the need for a sensitive case report on the Tea Party cases. The determinations unit manager agreed. That happened in April, 2010, Senator McConnell. That’s three years ago, and we’re just finding out about this abuse.
MM: Yeah, no, I think this is a big deal, and this investigation is going to go on for a while. You’ve probably also seen the reports today that conservative donors to Governor Romney mysteriously are having tax audits after not being audited for years, and having nothing new on their tax returns. This looks like a pervasive problem in which arguably, the most important agency of the federal government has been thoroughly politicized. We’ll find out. It certainly looks that way. And I think we can be guaranteed that the truth will come out. It always does. And it is certainly reminiscent of the Nixon years when abuse of the IRS was one of the charges back then.
HH: It’s reminiscent of the summer of 1973. I was a junior in high school, but I’m telling people that there are four of five strains that are Watergate, and I was pretty close to President Nixon, so I know the record pretty well, post-White House years. The fact is, many scandals converged as we have here. We have Benghazi, we have IRS, we have the AP sweeping command for phone records, and now we have the HHS reg, which your colleague, Lamar Alexander, says the shakedown at HHS rivals Iran-Contra for its scandalous nature.
MM: Absolutely. I think the administration’s in a lot of trouble. And the truth will come out. We’re going to have lengthy and complete Congressional investigations, certainly in the House, hopefully in the Senate as well, of all of these matters, and it will be an ongoing story for some time to come.
HH: Let me ask you about the Department of Justice. Attorney General Holder was at the House today, and began by saying he has nothing to do with the AP story, which is sort of like a Being There moment, Chance the Gardener, just not involved for reasons that the Judiciary Committee did not fully explore. But on the IRS, I do not trust the Department of Justice, Senator McConnell, to conduct this investigation. Does a special counsel have to be named by DOJ with independent authority to work with the FBI to follow the leads wherever they go?
MM: Well, it’s worth considering. Look, I’m not looking to the administration to handle this investigation correctly. I think the real investigation will be in Congress, because we have no incentive to whitewash what went on. Certainly, the Justice Department has a role to play in any criminal matter, and there could be, I guess, criminal violations here. But I’m interested in finding out the facts. And you’re right. I don’t trust the administration in the IRS investigation to lay all the facts before us. They’ve had a number of opportunities to do that in the last couple of years, and have chosen not to, including claiming none of this happened.
HH: Oh, your colleague, Senator Hatch, is hot under his high collar, and with good reason, because I think they just flat-out lied to him.
MM: Yeah, it looks that way, sure did.
MM: The IG report makes it clear people higher up did know what was going on, and that’s not what they said to members of Congress.
HH: So when you think you have a case of misleading of Congress, whether or not it occurred under oath, it’s the False Statements Act, 18 USC, or 28 USC 1001, how do get the DOJ to look at that, because if Congress can be lied to with impunity, there really is no oversight and the balance of powers is threatened.
MM: Look, I think this story’s just beginning. It’s going to go on for a while. And they’ll have multiple chapters that will unfold in the future, and we will learn over the course of time exactly who knew what and when.
HH: Have you talked to your colleague, Senator Reid, about a hearing schedule that could be agreed upon and a staffing model? That’s, when the Select Committee on Watergate met throughout the summer of ’73, it was with the assistance of the Republicans and Senator Baker, under the leadership of Senator Ervin. Is there any agreement to have Max Baucus or any of the other Democrats lead such an inquiry?
MM: Well, Baucus, I haven’t talked to Reid about it, yet, but Baucus has already indicated he thinks that they should at least have a hearing. I think it’ll be a lot more than a hearing, because I don’t think they’re going to want to be associated with this. I think Senate Democrats are likely to want to get as far away from it as they can. I know House Republicans will do the job correctly, and there’s even a chance Senate Democrats will, just because they’re going to want to not have any of the stench rub off on them.
HH: It’s very scary to the average American that the IRS can punch your ticket, and political appointees get in there. The head of this Determinations Unit apparently is a 35 year veteran of the agency, not likely to be politicized. But we never know with this gang. I mean, it’s the Chicago rules, isn’t it?
MM: You bet. It appears as if for these guys, the ends justify the means. And you know, look, on a smaller scale and down in Kentucky, we’ve had some left-wing group bug my campaign headquarters a couple of months ago.
HH: Any follow up from…
MM: Now I’m not saying that that was the responsibility of anybody in Washington, necessarily, but it just gives you an idea the mindset of the far left in this country, a dramatic number of whom are working in this administration.
HH: Well that is, I think, the key problem. A number of them are working at the Department of Justice as well, Mr. McConnell, and therefore, I don’t know that we get any satisfaction out of a DOJ investigation. So it really does come down to the House. A question for you in terms of Benghazi, I’m sure you watched those hearings. Is there any movement in the upper chamber to conduct the kind of inquiry that is underway under the stewardship of Speaker Boehner, Darrell Issa and the others?
MM: I don’t see how it can be avoided. Those whistleblowers who were on the scene were extremely impressive and very credible.
HH: Senator, when Secretary of State Clinton testified, she got sort of a light dusting at the Senate and the House. In the testimony by Mr. Hicks, it turns out she talked to him at 2:00 in the morning, learned that her number two was under siege and preparing to evacuate. There were people with axes destroying computers. The ambassador was missing, and they were going to remove, everything was a nightmare. She never called back. Are you surprised, looking now what we learned from Mr. Hicks, the Secretary of State never called back her besieged charge d’affair after news reached her?
MM: Yeah, I think all of these questions are going to be asked over again. I don’t think the Benghazi hearings and/or investigation are over.
HH: Do you think your former colleague, Senator Clinton, former Secretary of State Clinton, comes back to testify again?
MM: I don’t know, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s called up again.
HH: And last question, do you see some other colleagues, you’ve got a lot of retirements in the Senate, Harkin in Iowa and Baucus in Montana. Do you see other Democrats heading for the sideline because this is going to be a rocky three years for them with the second term of President Obama off to such a terrible start?
MM: Well, I don’t know, but we’ve had a number of Democratic retirements as you indicate, in Iowa and Michigan and in other places. There are plenty of opportunities out there for the American people to express their displeasure with the drift of this administration in November of 2014. And of course, I think other than the scandal issue, I think the next big issue for the next election is the implementation of Obamacare.
HH: Agreed. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, thank you, Senator.
End of interview.