A top official of the Corporation for National and Community Service, the government agency that oversees AmeriCorps, has refused to answer questions from congressional investigators about the White House's role in events surrounding the abrupt firing of inspector general Gerald Walpin.Read the rest. There will be more news on this.
Frank Trinity, general counsel for the Corporation, met with a bipartisan group of congressional investigators on Monday. When the investigators asked Trinity for details of the role the White House played in the firing, Trinity refused to answer, according to two aides with knowledge of the situation. "He said that's a prerogative of the White House, so he didn't feel at liberty to disclose anything regarding White House communications," says one aide.
UPDATE: Kelley Beaucar Vlahos of Fox News:
"The mounting evidence that there might be political interference with the IGs is disturbing," said Pete Sepp, vice president for policy and communications at the National Taxpayers Union. "The IGs are being emasculated."Wiens makes a good point that IG-Gate involves three distinct cases of IG's who have quit or been terminated -- AmeriCorps, Amtrak and the International Trade Commission -- and also the case of "SIGTARP," Neil Barofsky, inspector general for the TARP bailout, who has complained that the Treasury Department has not been fully cooperative. Each of these cases involves different facts.
"When inspectors general across the administration have roadblocks placed in their way, American taxpayers should worry. A threat to one's independence is a threat to them all," said Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas. . . .
Jake Wiens, an investigator for the Project on Government Oversight, a non-profit watchdog group in Washington, D.C., warned against seeing "patterns" in the dismissals. Taken individually, each IG's firing is a distinct case that could be "extremely problematic."
For example, Weins said, the Walpin case is mired in a number of "complicating issues," like documented complaints against Walpin from within the agency and a pending ethics complaint against him by the U.S. Attorney's Office in California.
Walpin is also the only IG in question to be fired by the White House. In the case of Weiderhold, the Amtrak IG answers to the Amtrak board of directors, currently chaired by Sen. Thomas Carper, D-Del. . . .
UPDATE 12:05 p.m.: Did some reporting of my own for the American Spectator:
Democratic congressional staffers investigating the firing of AmeriCorps inspector general Gerald Walpin asked tough questions of an agency lawyer who refused to discuss White House involvement in the case, a source familiar with the investigation tells the Spectator. . . .Read the whole thing. Last week, Michelle Malkin called me an "investigative journalist," which is a term that I've always found troublesome. It's not really anything special. An investigative journalist is just a reporter with sources. And developing sources, like everything else in journalism, is a skill (something you learn) rather than a talent (something you're born with).
So far, the source said, interviews with "key board members" at CNCS contradict White House special counsel Norman Eisen's assertion that the June 10 firing followed an "extensive review" at the request of the CNCS board. Board members have told congressional investigators that "they weren't contacted [by the White House] until after the decision was made," the source said. . . .
At last night's book-signing party, I was discussing this with someone and said that the difference between a pundit and a reporter can be summarized in four words: "Pick up the phone!"
Anyone can Google up the phone numbers of a congressman, make a call and ask to speak to his press secretary, and try to get a statement. What kills me is when I see someone like Ross Douthat -- with the resources and prestige of the New York Times at his disposal -- who refuses to use that awesome power to its full extent. "Pick up the phone!"
It's just inertia, really. Sitting in front of your computer and pontificating about the passing scene can too easily become a habit. If you never get up off your butt, make some phone calls and do some reporting, you stop thinking like a journalist. Before you know it, you're just another damned useless intellectual.