Today must be Scandal Day: first ACORN and now evidence that the White House lied to Congress about its involvement in the firing of AmeriCorps Inspector-General Gerald Walpin. According to documents released late last Friday and contrary to the fairy tale the White House told last June, there was no broad consultation or investigation conducted before the sudden decision to get rid of Walpin. Byron York of the Washington Examiner tells the story:
Just hours after Sen. Charles Grassley and Rep. Darrell Issa released a report Friday on their investigation into the abrupt firing of AmeriCorps inspector general Gerald Walpin, the Obama White House gave the lawmakers a trove of new, previously-withheld documents on the affair. It was a twist on the now-familiar White House late-Friday release of bad news; this time, the new evidence was put out not only at the start of a weekend but also hours too late for inclusion in the report.
The new documents support the Republican investigators’ conclusion that the White House’s explanation for Walpin’s dismissal — that it came after the board of the Corporation for National and Community Service, which oversees AmeriCorps, unanimously decided that Walpin must go — was in fact a public story cobbled together after Walpin was fired, not before.
Walpin was axed on the evening of June 10, when he received a call from Norman Eisen, the special counsel to the president for ethics and government reform, who told Walpin he had one hour either to resign or be fired. The next day, congressional Republicans, led by Grassley, objected, charging that Walpin’s dismissal violated a recently-passed law requiring the president to give Congress 30 days’ notice before dismissing an inspector general.
Pressed for the reason Walpin was fired, Eisen told House and Senate aides that the White House conducted an “extensive review” of complaints about Walpin’s performance before deciding to dismiss him. According to the new report, Eisen told Congress that “his investigation into the merits of removing Gerald Walpin involved contacting members of the Corporation for National and Community Service [CNCS] board to confirm the existence of a ‘consensus’ in favor of removal.” But Republican investigators later discovered that during that “extensive review,” the White House did not even seek the views of the corporation’s board — the very people whose “consensus” purportedly led to Walpin’s firing.
Other than board chairman Alan Solomont, the Democratic mega-donor and Obama supporter who originally told the White House of his dissatisfaction with Walpin, “no member of the CNCS board had any substantive input about whether the removal of Gerald Walpin was appropriate,” according to the report. Only one other board member, vice-chairman Stephen Goldsmith, was even called by the White House, and that was on June 10, a few hours before Walpin was fired. According to the report, Goldsmith told investigators that “the White House had already decided to remove Walpin and wanted to confirm [Goldsmith’s] support for the action.”
The new documents show the White House scrambling, in the days after the controversy erupted, to put together a public explanation for the firing.
Read the whole thing, as well as a companion editorial that provides a good overview of the shenanigans at play here. Clearly Walpin was not fired because he was becoming senile and unable to discharge his duties -he’s been cleared of those and other smears– but because his investigations were uncovering embarrassing and possibly illegal conduct on the part of a major supporter of President Obama. Apparently a determination was made to just get rid of him in contravention of the law regarding IGs, and a rationale cooked up after the fact. A rationale, I might add, that was both a lie to Senator Grassley and Congressman Issa – and a blatant attempt to smear Walpin and ruin his reputation.
The question is, how far up the chain does this go? Who authorized the lies to Congress? Who ordered the illegal firing of Walpin? Who was trying to protect Sacramento Mayor Johnson? Stay tuned for these and other questions (and, one hopes, some answers) in our next episode of Cook County on the Potomac!