All-Star Panel: Implications of IRS scandal for administration

'Special Report' All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," June 24, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: As I just said, line IRS employees in Cincinnati improperly scrutinizing 501-C4 organizations by using words like "Tea Party" in quotes and "patriot."

BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS HOST: You're saying no corruption? None?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: No. There were some bone-headed decisions.

O'REILLY: Bone-headed decisions. But no mass corruption?

OBAMA: Not even mass corruption. Not even a smidgen of corruption.


REP. TREY GOWDY, R - SC: It was Jay Carney who perpetuated the myth that it was two rogue agents in Ohio. It wasn't any of us.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R – OH, HOUSE SPEAKER: When you look at the president, his own remarks when this IRS scandal unfolded almost a year ago, he said that he would fully cooperate, he and his administration. They not only have not fully cooperated, they have not done a damn thing to help us get to the truth of what really happened.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Well, the hearings continue about the IRS e-mails that have since disappeared. Newest Fox poll asked a couple of questions. One, should Congress continue to investigate the IRS until someone is held accountable? You can see 74 percent of those polled say yes, and that's up from April at 67 percent. Also, the IRS targeting and V.A., scandals did President Obama really learn about those in the news? And there you see the breakdown, 31 percent yes, 60 percent no. Let's bring in our panel and syndicated George Will, Juan Williams, columnist with The Hill, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. OK, Charles.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, I think this is very serious. And the only reason the administration is not getting pilloried on this is because of the press. You can try this -- even Mark Halperin talked about this, this morning, who is hardly a right-wing zealot. He said if this was a Republican president this would be screaming headlines. The using the IRS as an instrument corruptly to harass organizations of the opposite ideology and party, and then what's gone on ever since which is the slow walk and the stonewall and the delay.

Either on the one hand the best interpretation that this is rank incompetence, the losing of these records, in which case you add it to the V.A. scandal and others, and you have the party of government, the Democrats, you know, who pretend to want to run health care, who want to run everything, exposed as totally unable to do that and the government truly discredited. So either its incompetence, which undermines the whole idea of big government, or it is corruption with a president who pretends without any evidence there was wasn't a smidgen of corruption. I think this really is a serious issue. In the absence of a special prosecutor we may never know. And I return again, give Lois Lerner immunity so she has to tell the truth. That may be the only way we'll find out.

BAIER: Juan, an official from the national archives testified about this. He was asked whether the IRS broke the law.


REP. TIM WALBERG, R - MI: At any time in 2011 through last Monday, did the IRS report any loss of records related to Lois Lerner?


WALBERG: Is it fair to say that the IRS broke the Federal Records Act?

FERRIERO: They are required, any agency is required to notify us when they realize they have a problem that could be destruction or disposal, unauthorized --

WALBERG: But they didn't do that?

FERRIERO: That's right.

WALBERG: If they didn't follow it, can we safely assume they broke the law?

FERRIERO: They did not follow the law.


BAIER: Juan?

JUAN WILLIAMS, SENIOR EDITOR, THE HILL: They didn't follow the law. But at this point we're in the weeds. We're just looking like we're far, far away from the primary allegation, which is a deeply concerning one which you have the IRS targeting political opponents of the incumbent party -- the White House incumbent. That's a serious charge. We've now had two House investigations, we've had these investigations. We had one last week. We had one Monday night in primetime for the TV audience. We've had the inspector general. So far no evidence of any criminal act.

BAIER: You have a lack of evidence?


BAIER: A lack evidence. The e-mails are missing.

WILLIAMS: There are some e-mails missing, but remember, you've got 24,000 e-mails. You have 700,000 documents made available. So that's all there. The question is, and I think this is what you saw today from Darrell Issa at House Oversight. Issa was going to the White House attorney, his assistant, Jennifer Eggleston, and saying she had worked previously at IRS. Did the White House know of anything going on with these missing e-mails that they communicated then to people at Justice? Was there a dance, an orchestration that would suggest there was a conspiracy, a political conspiracy by the Democrats against the Republicans? She said she didn't see any such thing while she was at IRS and that in terms of her time at the White House she got there when the current White House counsel got there.

BAIER: George?

GEORGE WILL, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: That there was targeting of these groups is not disputed. The president has apologized for it. The IRS has in their way apologized. The question that makes this interesting and the question that a special prosecutor would pursue is where does this lead? How high up does it go? It's gone from Cincinnati to the IRS, and now it's stopped. Why? People say well nothing has connected this to the White House.

Let's go back to Watergate for just a moment. The Watergate scandal began because one of the burglars in the Watergate building was connected to the Committee to Re-elect the President. It would never have got to Nixon but for the tapes that showed Richard Nixon plotting obstruction of justice in the Oval Office. Now, if Richard Nixon had done what John Connally and others recommend that he do -- that he burned the tapes, he would have retired, he would have served his full term. Something equivalent to burning the tapes may have happened with the hard drive of Lois Lerner.

BAIER: I mean, Juan, it is fair to say looking at those sound bites we just listened to that Jay Carney was wrong when he said two rogue agents in Cincinnati were responsible for this, and the president was wrong when he said it was bone-headed decisions out of a local office, and then he went on to say there's not even a smidgen of corruption.

WILLIAMS: Again, it's a difference between bone-headed decisions --

BAIER: We know, we've seen the e-mails that take it to the Washington.

WILLIAMS: Yes, but what we're seeing is there was oversight. They are trying to figure out how to make sure that these Tea Party, Tea Patriot, these various new groups don't abuse IRS regulations in terms of claiming that they are nonprofits and tax exempt. And they then, I think, took a shortcut is what we know for the record that they made bad decisions and said we're going to flag anything that's called "Tea Party," and "Patriot," and et cetera. This whole idea we're now to Watergate and burning tapes, I mean that, you have to -- that's quite a leap for me.

WILL: It's a leap. Not only Lois Lerner's hard drive crashes, 10 days after they get the letter from Dave Camp, the chairman of the Appropriate Committee, but six others do, including those of the person who was the chief of staff to the IRS commission who was fired. And you know what the response to this is -- Charles talks about the incompetence demonstrated here, and that's the default explanation of what government does a lot of the time. But the beauty of this, and it's an almost elegant thing, Commissioner Koskinen has said, as the perfect bureaucrat would, that all of this is evidence that the IRS needs a bigger appropriations so it can get better computers.

KRAUTHAMMER: That's what Nancy Pelosi said. Her answer to a corruption scandal, a missing evidence scandal is we need better technology, more money. That's the default answer of a liberal of every issue involving government.

BAIER: Let me interrupt you for a second. When people say this smells fishy, that it looks bad, doesn't it counter directly Democrats who are saying this is all in the minds of Republicans? Doesn't the people -- don't the people at home who say, wait a second, this doesn't make sense to me, don't they count for something?

KRAUTHAMMER: This requires an extremely improbable degree of coincidence, six computers, hers goes down, nobody can locate it, there's no reporting of it, and all of us know from our own experience that e-mails never die. All of a sudden these have died, precisely, you say there were tons of e-mails that were released. Yes, but these are the ones precisely that would connect the IRS with other agencies.

WILLIAMS: You don't know that, Charles.

KRAUTHAMMER: No. But that's how they were tagged. That's how -- these are the ones they are looking for, the ones that went outside the IRS. And that's exactly what they are looking for. You talk about the IRS in a bone-headed way sort of not getting right the investigation of whether --


KRAUTHAMMER: -- the groups went over the line of the 501-C4. No. This is a deliberate attempt by the administration to sideline these political conservative groups in the days --

WILLIAMS: You don't have -- as the president said, you don't have an iota of proof.


WILLIAMS: -- hold hearings, nothing. The I.G. has said, yes, it was politically motivated, but no outside influence and no evidence of corruption.

BAIER: And so when the national archivist says any agency is required to notify us when they realize they have a problem, when they realize that they've lost e-mails and it's against the federal records --

WILLIAMS: That's not what we're here talking about. We're talking about if the IRS was being used to punish political opponents.

WILL: There would have been no evidence of Richard Nixon's involvement in obstruction of justice if his tapes had suffered the same fate that Lois Lerner's hard drive has suffered.

KRAUTHAMMER: Look, the fact that they targeted Tea Party is evidence, irrefutable evidence they were going after certain political groups, all of the same ideology, and you're telling me it was a coincidence. Rubbish.

BAIER: Next up, new information on just how dangerous the Iraq crisis is becoming.

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