Credibility gap worsens IRS scandal

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Buzz Cut:
• Credibility gap worsens IRS scandal
• First in Fox News First: New call for Obama to visit border
• Can the Granite State crack the Pick Six?
• Hillary responds to Rubio’s last-century knock
• Hey, he didn’t say he had never been armed

The emails at the IRS may or may not be lost. One thing that is lost for sure is much of the credibility of agency Commissioner John Koskinen, the man tapped by President Obama to restore confidence in the beleaguered IRS in the wake of the revelation that the tax agency targeted Obama’s political foes. Koskinen, who so haughtily and huffily refused to apologize and lectured lawmakers about his resume and qualifications, is going to get barbequed today. The third or fourth iteration of this email story has badly sapped his credibility as an outside reformer come to right the severely listing IRS.

[Watch Fox: Correspondent Doug McKelway will follow IRS Commissioner John Koskinen appearance today before a House Oversight Committee panel.]

No explanation - It all involves Lois Lerner, who we know was looking to cover email tracks, who we also know put out the story with a planted question and who now, famously, refuses to testify. The potential charge being bandied by Republicans now sounds an awful lot like obstruction of justice. Ask Martha Stewart how lightly federal courts treat that one. It’s not hard to imagine a motive to destroy evidence for a person in a situation like that. But we wouldn’t know what Lerner says about the emails, because she won’t testify. The possibility that the emails could be recovered from another, outside source may cause her to rethink that stance.

Missed opportunity - The Lerner email debacle reinforces what we’ve known since this scandal popped more than a year ago: The smart political play for Obama was always to find some fair-minded Republican to act as overseer and repairman for the damaged agency. The decision to stay within the pack for a new boss looks now to be a very grave error. Whatever actually is going on, Koskinen just doesn’t have the credibility now to allay investigators’ evidence concerns or the public mistrust of the agency. The pick was a botch, perhaps driven by a desire to push ahead with ObamaCare implementation, a key new role for the agency.

Wait, what? - During a Democratic fundraiser in Seattle Tuesday night, President Obama touted that he rarely learns anything from the news arguing, “Whatever they’re reporting about, usually I know.” But, Team Obama claimed he learned about the IRS and other scandals after watching the news. However he’s getting his news, the president will continue a West Coast swing with three more fundraising events today in California.

WaPo: “In undercover tests of the new federal health insurance marketplace, government investigators have been able to procure health plans and federal subsidies for fake applicants with fictitious documents, according to findings that will be disclosed to lawmakers Wednesday. The results of the inquiry by the Government Accountability Office are evidence of still-imperfect work by specialists intended to assist new insurance customers as well as government contractors hired to verify that coverage and subsidies are legitimate. The GAO also pointed to flaws that linger in the marketplace’s Web site, According to testimony to be delivered before a House Ways and Means subcommittee, undercover GAO investigators tried to obtain health plans for a dozen fictitious applicants online or by phone, using invalid or missing Social Security numbers or inaccurate citizenship information. All but one of the fake applicants ended up getting subsidized coverage — and have kept it.”

[Washington Examiner’s Philip Klein looks at the “Seven potential effects of the D.C. Circuit Court's Obamacare ruling”: “1. It has no impact… 2. Uncertainty keeps repeal flame alive… 3. Americans lose subsidies… 4. The employer mandate won’t apply in 36 states… 5. The individual mandate would apply to fewer people… 6. Life gets harder for Republican governors… 7. Obamacare gets re-opened by Congress”]

Washington Examiner: “John Podesta, one of President Obama’s closest White House advisers, counts among his key financial supporters Hansjorg Wyss, a reclusive Swiss billionaire whose company conducted illegal human experiments that resulted in the deaths of three elderly patients. … Among the Swiss billionaire's largest gifts in recent years have been those made to the Center for American Progress. CAP received $4.1 million from Wyss during Podesta's tenure as the liberal nonprofit’s founding president and chief executive officer. A CAP spokesman declined to respond to the Examiner's request for information about the Podesta-Wyss relationship….”

With the humanitarian crisis at the border still in disarray, Rep. David Schweikert, R-Ariz., will ask President Obama today to adjust his West Coast fundraising swing to include a visit to the border. Earlier this month the president passed on Gov. Rick Perry’s, R-Texas, similar invitation, saying that he is “not interested in photo ops” even though he was just a few hundred miles from the border. Schweikert argues that the border situation is intensifying and our “Commander-and-Chief is missing-in-action.” “I do not believe that this is a crisis you can fully comprehend until you have seen it firsthand,” Schweikert said in a statement. “Relying on second-hand information and accounts isn’t good enough.” Today the president will travel to Beverly Hills and Los Angles for two separate Democratic fundraisers.

Would you like to read an account of ostrich chariot races and a camel derby at a New Jersey horse track? It’s fascinating and it is Wednesday, after all. From The Awl: “Hump Day seemed to take an early lead on the inside lane. But Camelot, in the outer lane, must have used the surprise start to his advantage; he and his rider sped past in the outer lane, and after another blink-and-you-missed-it distance on the track’s opening stretch, the camels, too, were finished racing. They slowed to a lumbering walk, and the four handlers led their charges through the winner’s circle, drawing louder cheers than most of the night’s other races. Camelot’s winning rider grabbed its reins and led it back out into the track, kissing his steed on the nose before heading to the stables.”

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Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval
: Approve – 43 percent//Disapprove – 52.5 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 25.8 percent//Wrong Track – 63.8 percent
Generic Congressional Ballot:  Democrats – 41 percent// Republicans 39.8 percent

New Hampshire hasn’t broken into the Pick Six list chosen by Fox News First readers, but the race remains tantalizingly on the table for Republicans hoping to take control of the Senate. On tonight’s “Special Report with Bret Baier,” host Bret Baier will sit down with New Hampshire Republican Senate hopeful and former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown to discuss how the race against incumbent Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., is taking shape. Although Brown continues to trail Shaheen in the polls, the tightening of the New Hampshire’s 1st District race may add hope for the GOP. Challenger and former Rep. Frank Guinta, R-N.H. now has a slight lead over Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H., after trailing the incumbent by 9 points in April, according to a recent poll. Forty-six percent of voters said they support Guinta while 43 percent of voters chose Shea-Porter.

[Watch Fox: “Special Report with Bret Baier” Pick Six special airs tonight at 6 p.m. E.T.]

Little help from a friend – Senate hopeful Brown also has a New Hampshire Republican favorite stumping for him: former Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Mass. In a recent poll nearly four out of ten Republicans would choose the former GOP presidential candidate to once again lead the party in the 2016 White House race.

[Carly Fiorina is in Concord tonight to rally women as part of her new Unlocking potential initiative.]

Veterans top priority – Veterans issues continue to be a top priority for both Brown and Shaheen. In an op-ed today, challenger Brown touted his focus on veterans promising to reinstate his now expired Hire A Hero Act that offers tax credits to businesses who hire veterans. “It’s pretty simple: no one should go to fight for America overseas, only to return home and have to fight for respect here,” said Brown, a retired member of the Army National Guard. As part of his “Honoring Our Veterans” tour, Brown also met with a group of veterans this week to hear their concerns about veteran’s issues. Shaheen reiterated her call Monday for sweeping reforms in Veterans Affairs system after reports of excessive waits for veterans. Both Shaheen and Brown have aired ads centered around their efforts for veterans.

Pick Six: The status quo will change dramatically in Washington if Republicans are able to gain an additional six Senate seats. Which six Democrat-held seats are the most likely GOP pickups? The current consensus among Fox News First readers: Arkansas (13.5%), Louisiana (11.9%), Montana (11.6%), West Virginia (10.9%), South Dakota (10.4%) and North Carolina (10.2%)

Share your top six picks. Email them – just your top six, please – to FOXNEWSFIRST@FOXNEWS.COM or tweet @cstirewalt.

[Poll Watch: The latest Fox News polls on President Obama’s competency, overstepping his authority, recent calls for impeachment, and job approval will be released during “Special Report with Bret Baier” in the 6 p.m. ET hour]

Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, sounding very much like a candidate trading jabs with an opponent, pushed back Tuesday to Sen. Marco Rubio’s charge that she’s a “20th century candidate.” WaPo: “’I know that elections are about the future, and I would look forward in engaging in that kind of debate,’ Clinton said in an interview with “Airtalk” on Southern California public radio station KPCC…. Rubio (R-Fla.), who is also a potential candidate, suggested in an interview broadcast earlier in the day that Clinton does not offer a forward-looking platform. ‘I just think she’s a 20th century candidate,’ Rubio told NPR in an interview published Tuesday. "I think she does not offer an agenda for moving America forward in the 21st century -- at least not up to now.’”

[Watch Fox: Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., will appear with Megyn Kelly on “The Kelly File” at 9 p.m. E.T.]

In pursuit of Hillary - Relaying insight from his recent book “Clinton, Inc.,” author Daniel Halper writes about Hillary Clinton’s prospective 2016 candidacy (will she, won’t she), Democrats fears that she will and potential challengers for the Washington Free Beacon: “Democrats fear she is too radioactive. One of many prominent D.C. Democrats who will only comment on background out of fear of inciting Clintonian wrath complains that “she will lose the general because her negatives are so high.” Then there is the not-so-secret fact that she is not a very good candidate. Hillary is often compared to the kind of politician always better in concept than as an actual flesh-and-blood candidate…But the real question being asked in Washington is not whether Hillary can be beaten as such, as it is whether any prominent Democrat has the guts to try to stop her.”

[Flashback - Daniel Halper talked about his book and how the former president and former first daughter may be obstacles to a 2016 Hillary Clinton run with Megyn Kelly. See the full interview from “The Kelly File” here.]

Let the clash of the self-described outsiders begin. With David Perdue’s runoff victory Tuesday, the Republican nominee now goes toe-to-toe with Democrat Michelle Nunn in a contest crucial to GOP’s goal to gain control of the Senate in November. Looking for a net gain of six Senate seats, Republicans need to keep the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga. Former Dollar General CEO Perdue, who ran an outsider campaign bested Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., in a win that seems to reflect Georgians’ dissatisfaction with Washington. With an eye to November, both Perdue and Nunn, who is the daughter of former longtime Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., are acutely aware of that distaste. “The race, AP reports, will shape up largely as two outsiders battling for moderate and independent voters in a state that has voted reliably Republican in recent years, with Perdue looking to lay blame for the nation's problems with Democrats in Washington and Nunn emphasizing her independence.”  “You run against Barack Obama, and Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi and the failed policies of the past six years,” Perdue said of his strategy against Nunn on “Fox and Friends today. “You know she’s going to defend the failed policies of the last six years.”

[The Chamber of Commerce spent more than $21.6 million on advocacy in the second quarter, bringing this year’s spending to more than $40 million.]

Hammerin’ - Nunn has been building a sizable purse, raising $9 million so far with $2.3 million on hand. Her campaign is plowing ahead today, with baseball’s lifetime home run king and Atlanta Braves star Hank Arron asking donors to pitch in $7.55 (his record homerun number) for Nunn.  Perdue had less than $800,000 left in the bank according to latest reports, but the former Fortune 500 CEO has deep pockets and after a long primary test stands alone as the Republican contender. Given the high stakes, expect loads of outside money to flood in.

[Rapper Waka Flaka Flame tweeted an endorsement for Perdue Tuesday, but after two hours deletes his tweet.]

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hopes to gain a sixth term a Kentucky’s Senator. Although he is known as a dealmaker and powerbroker in Washington, Democratic Challenger Secretary of State Allison Lundergan Grimes hopes to paint herself as the outsider’s choice. How will this race, estimated to see $100 million in campaign spending, end? Power Play host Chris Stirewalt has the latest in this week’s edition of “Race in 90 Seconds.” Watch here.

In a new spot out today, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell responds to a jobs attack from Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes. The spot features the CEO of a Louisville aluminum manufacturer touting McConnell’s record on jobs: “Mitch listened and then he engaged a clear and decisive process to hold the Chinese companies accountable and to level the playing field for our employees,” says Cardinal Aluminum CEO Chip Edwards in the spot. “Without Mitch McConnell, these 400 good manufacturing jobs in Louisville would not have been saved. Mitch never forgets who he’s working for.”

Coal Association calls Grimes ad inaccurate - Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader: “Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes' latest campaign ad attacks U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell over lost coal jobs in Kentucky — a connection that the Kentucky Coal Association quickly labeled as unfair and inaccurate. KCA president Bill Bissett said Tuesday morning that Grimes' new ad, which combines coal job losses with McConnell's remark to a newspaper about jobs, makes a false connection between what McConnell told The Beattyville Enterprise and the loss of coal jobs….”

[McConnell’s primary challenger Matt Bevin spent $5.3 million in his unsuccessful bid to oust the Senate minority leader.]

Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton’s PAC is endorsing Thom Tillis in his race to unseat Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C. “Thom Tillis is a proven leader who has brought conservative reform to North Carolina; the same reform that is badly needed in Washington,” said Ambassador John Bolton in a statement. “The U.S. Senate needs more leaders with the conviction Thom has, and I strongly support his campaign for senate. He fully understands the importance of a strong American national-security policy. ” Hagan is slightly ahead in the polls. Bolton’s PAC has also contributed $10,000 to the challenger. The group has already made contributions to Senate candidates Virginia Republican Ed Gillespie, Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., state Rep. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, Michigan’s Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land, and Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

The Tennessean: “Fred Thompson, the former U.S. senator from Tennessee, goes to bat for his successor and longtime friend, Lamar Alexander, in a new Alexander campaign ad. Occasionally looking like an, um, actor reading his lines off cue cards, Thompson talks about Alexander's conservative credentials as Tennessee's Republican governor from 1979 to 1987 and as a senator endorsed by anti-abortion and business groups and given an ‘A’ grade by the NRA. ‘That's why conservatives I know are voting for Lamar,’ the former presidential candidate concludes. Alexander faces a tea party challenge from state Rep. Joe Carr in the Aug. 7 GOP primary.”

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., will be a witness rather than a questioner today as she appears before the Senate Finance subcommittee on taxation. Rodgers, whose seven-year-old son, Cole, has Down syndrome, will testify in support of a bill she helped draft to expand tax-free savings accounts for Americans with disabilities to cover special ongoing needs, including job training. The bill, called the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act has picked up support already from three-quarters of the Senate and is expected to sail to passage – a minor miracle this year. “As the mom of a son with Down syndrome, I see firsthand how federal policies limit -- not expand -- opportunities for those with disabilities.  And the ABLE Act will change that.” Rogers said in a statement. “It will make sure that Cole -- and the millions like him who have special needs -- will be able to save for their futures and reach their full potential.  I am proud to stand beside my colleagues in Congress and those in the disability community as we advance this crucial legislation.”

A man who pleaded guilty to robbing a Delaware pizza parlor is suing the establishment for its employees being too rough with him when they tackled him to keep the gunman from getting away. From The News Journal: “In his self-written complaint, [Nigel Sykes] admits, ‘I committed a robbery at Seasons Pizza’ on Maryland Ave. on Nov. 30, 2010, just before 8 p.m. He admits he ‘displayed’ a handgun and that an employee – a delivery driver and one of the named defendants – ‘handed me $140.’ He says he then started to make his way forward in the store when a different employee grabbed him from behind and other employees wrestled the gun from him, with at least one shot being fired during the struggle. ‘That is when the assault began,’ according to Sykes' suit. ‘All of the Season's Pizza employees participated in punching, kicking and pouring hot soup over my body. I was unarmed and defenseless and had to suffer a brutal beating by all of the employees of Seasons Pizza,’ he wrote, adding the beating knocked him unconscious.” Sykes is seeking more than $260,000 for his pain and suffering.

“Even if you except the defense of the government that it is a drafting error, a drafting error in a bill, is still part of the bill. And the only instrument in the constitutional system we have, that can change an error, drafting or otherwise, is the Congress. It is not the purview. It is not in the power of the executive to fix what's written in the legislation. That's the issue at hand.” Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier” Watch here.

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News. Want FOX News First in your inbox every day? Sign up