Michelle Obama behind Inspector General firing?

December 14, 2009

It’s way too early to ask that famous question (paraphrased), “What did she know and when did she know it,” but Byron York reports on strong indications that the White House may be trying to hide the First Lady’s involvement of AmeriCorps Inspector General Gerald Walpin, who had uncovered corruption in one of her favorite charities:

Congressional investigators looking into the abrupt firing of AmeriCorps inspector general Gerald Walpin have discovered that the head of AmeriCorps met with a top aide to First Lady Michelle Obama the day before Walpin was removed.

According to Republican investigators, Alan Solomont, then the chairman of the Corporation for National and Community Service, which oversees AmeriCorps, had denied meeting with Jackie Norris, at the time the First Lady’s chief of staff.  But recently-released White House visitor logs show that Solomont met with Norris on June 9 of this year (as well as on two earlier occasions). President Obama fired Walpin on June 10 after an intense dispute over Walpin’s aggressive investigation of misuse of AmeriCorps money by Obama political ally Kevin Johnson, the mayor of Sacramento, California.

After being presented with the visitor logs, investigators say, Solomont explained that he met with Norris to discuss Corporation business but did not discuss the Walpin matter.  When pressed, Solomont said he might have made an offhand comment, or a mention in passing, about the Walpin affair, but that he and Norris did not have a discussion about it.

Solomont’s explanations have left both Rep. Darrell Issa, ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Sen. Charles Grassley, top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, frustrated and vowing to continue their investigation of the Walpin matter. In a letter to Solomont, sent Friday, Issa wrote that he has “serious questions about the veracity of your…testimony.”  In a statement Saturday, Grassley said he is “concerned about the accuracy and completeness of Mr. Solomont’s answers to questions.”

Solomont changed his story several times and was caught in a bald lie by committee investigators. The question is inevitable: if nothing wrong was done, why not admit he had discussed that troublesome IG with Mrs. Obama’s chief of staff? (And who soon thereafter was appointed to the board of AmeriCorps supervising corporation.) Unless, of course, the First Lady was to some degree involved in the illegal firing of Mr. Walpin? AmeriCorps is a favored charity of hers, and Mayor Johnson is a major Obama supporter and friend. A little Chicago-style hardball politics to make Walpin go away wouldn’t be alien to her, someone steeped in it from childhood.

Again, it’s too early to scream j’accuse, but the behavior of those involved is both curious and suggestive. But, with the Republicans in the minority and Democrats seemingly uninterested in pursuing IG-gate, we may have to wait for January, 2011, for the full story to come out.

RELATED: A friend reminds me of a potentially similar prior scandal, from when our Secretary of State was herself First lady. This time, however, there’s the added spice of the current First Lady possibly intervening to protect a supporter who misuses federal funds and sexually harasses interns. Sweet! I’d better order more popcorn…

LINKS: More at Hot Air.


Hope! Change! Cover Ups! The Chicago Way!

November 23, 2009

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!

LINKS: Reporter Robert Stacy McCain has also done extensive work on what’s being dubbed IG-gate. More from Sister Toldjah and Hot Air.