During the first part of the panel segment on Fox News Channel’s “Special Report” on Tuesday night, Washington Post columnists Charles Krauthammer and George Will took on network contributor Juan Williams over the merit of the House Oversight Committee investigation into former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner’s missing emails.
Williams insisted that House Republicans had strayed too far away from the core of the wrongdoing for their investigations to be taken seriously.
“They didn’t follow the law,” Williams said. 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 deeply concerning one, which you have the IRS targeting political opponents of the incumbent party — the White House. 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 had the inspector general. So far no evidence of any criminal act.”
Will countered Williams’ claims by explaining why the House Oversight committee’s effort was important, pointing to the wrongdoing these missing emails may have shown and who was involved.
“That targeting of these groups is not disputed,” Will said. “The president apologized for it. The IRS has 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 there’s nothing that’s connect 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 building to the committee re-elect the president. It would never have gotten 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 he do burn the tapes he would have served his full term. Something equivalent to burning the tapes may have happened with the hard drive of Lois Lerner.”
Later in the segment, Krauthammer and Williams went back and forth over the merits of the inquiry into the missing emails and whether or not the missing emails constituted a violation of law.
Partial transcript as follows:
BAIER: When people say this smells fishy, that it looks bad, does 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, 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 — all of us know from our own experience that emails never die. All of a sudden these have died. Precisely, you say there were tons of emails that were released. Yes, but these are the ones precisely that would connect the IRS with other agencies.
WILLIAMS: You don’t know that.
KRAUTHAMMER: No, but that’s how they were tagged.
WILLIAMS: Oh, Charles.
KRAUTHAMMER: These were the ones that they were looking for, the ones that went outside the IRS and that’s exactly what they’re looking for. You talk about the IRS in a bone-headed way, sort of not getting right the investigation of whether —
KRAUTHAMMER: — whether the groups went over the line of the 501(c)4. No. This is a deliberate attempt by the administration to sideline these politically conservative groups in the days leading up —
WILLIAMS: As the president said, you don’t have an iota of proof. Partisan Republicans held hearings, nothing.
BAIER: Any agency —
WILLIAMS: The I.G. has said, yes, it was politically motivated but no outside influence and no evidence of corruption.
BAIER: And when the national archivist said any agency is required to notify us when they realize they have a problem, when they realize they’ve lost e-mails and against the federal record —
WILLIAMS: That’s not what we’re here talking about. We’re talking about if the IRS is being used to punish political enemies.
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 the 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.
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