House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) says the Obama administration's Justice Department has been caught red-handed trying to orchestrate the leak of committee documents related to the ongoing IRS investigation, which would have allowed Justice to comment on the documents before Republicans made them public.
Issa says he has clear evidence of this — a Justice official mistakenly called Issa's staff directly, instead of calling a Democratic office, and asked Issa's staff to leak the information "before the Majority" — meaning Republicans — could share it.
"I am extremely troubled by this attempt to improperly coordinate the release of committee documents with the minority staff," Issa wrote to Attorney General Eric Holder in a Monday letter. "This effort to preemptively release incomplete and selectively chosen information undermines the department's claims that it is responding in good faith."
According to Issa's letter, a senior Justice official called the committee on Friday, and reached Issa's Republican staff. The official said Justice was sending over certain documents to Republicans that evening related to Andrew Strelka, a former IRS official who now works at Justice and is involved in the IRS investigation.
Republicans have complained about Strekla's involvement in the case given his past work at the IRS.
The official then said Justice was not allowed to release the documents to the press, but said Justice wanted to get it to the press somehow so it could comment on the documents before Issa could.
The official "then asked the committee employee if the committee would agree to release the material to selected reporters and thereby allow the department the opportunity to comment publicly on it," Issa wrote.
When Issa's staff asked for the documents, the Justice official put the call on hold for about three minutes, during which he apparently realized his mistake.
Issa said when the call resumed, the Justice official was "audibly shaken," and said there was a "change in plans" — Justice would no longer seek to release the documents early. Issa said he realizes that emails and other communications are often shared, but said the call seems to be proof that committee Democrats are working with the Obama administration to "obfuscate and prejudice the committee's work through under-the-table coordination."
Issa also dismissed the Justice official's later attempt to explain away the call by saying it was aimed at fostering a closer working relationship with Republicans.
"The department's efforts to prejudice the committee's oversight work demands examination," Issa wrote. "I ask that you provide a detailed explanation for each of the department's ex part communications with the minority members or staff about committee investigations or strategies for blocking and undermining oversight."
Issa asked that Holder provide this information by Monday, September 15. Read Issa's letter here: