A Struggle Within? Harry Reid, Democrats Increasingly Frustrated With Aloof Obama

As his second term matures (or festers, if you prefer), President Obama is leading the executive branch into closer alliances with lobbying interests and partisan donors. But he’s doing so at the expense of traditional political alliances, leaving his would-be Democratic allies in the legislative branch to fend for themselves when it comes to crafting policy and forging both intra-party and bipartisan political alliances.

Reportedly, Democratic Congressional leaders — especially Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) — aren’t happy about it.

From an August 18 story in The New York Times:

The meeting in the Oval Office in late June was called to give President Obama and the four top members of Congress a chance to discuss the unraveling situation in Iraq.

But Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, wanted to press another point.

With Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, sitting a few feet away, Mr. Reid complained that Senate Republicans were spitefully blocking the confirmation of dozens of Mr. Obama’s nominees to serve as ambassadors. He expected that the president would back him up and urge Mr. McConnell to relent.

Mr. Obama quickly dismissed the matter.

“You and Mitch work it out,” Mr. Obama said coolly, cutting off any discussion.

Mr. Reid seethed quietly for the rest of the meeting, according to four separate accounts provided by people who spoke with him about it. After his return to the Capitol that afternoon, Mr. Reid told other senators and his staff members that he was astonished by how disengaged the president seemed. After all, these were Mr. Obama’s own ambassadors who were being blocked by Mr. McConnell, and Secretary of State John Kerry had been arguing for months that getting them installed was an urgent necessity for the administration.

But the impression the president left with Mr. Reid was clear: Capitol Hill is not my problem.

…In interviews, nearly two dozen Democratic lawmakers and senior congressional aides suggested that Mr. Obama’s approach has left him with few loyalists to effectively manage the issues erupting abroad and at home and could imperil his efforts to leave a legacy in his final stretch in office.

This anecdote aligns with the remarks of House Democrats, who told The Hill last week that Obama is shunning them — and they don’t know why.

“It’s hard for us to fathom; I mean, is it just lack of full staffing and resources? [Is it] professional commitment? Is it a disdain for the legislative branch? I mean, what is it? People like me want to be allies — I mean, I am an ally. So work with us, reach out to us; you know, we’re not the enemy,” said Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-Va.).

“Not being consulted ahead of time — that just makes people crazy. Let us know ahead of time. Call us in when you’re developing something so we can give you our ground-level reality check about how this is going to work,” said Congressman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.).

There’s another side to the problem, though — one that betrays a more calculating aspect to Obama’s shunning of Democratic Congressional leadership.

Obama surely knows he’s toxic to many Democratic incumbents seeking to retain their seats in the House and Senate this November. He’s even demonstrated a willingness to show face on behalf embattled Democrats — even when they dodge their own fundraisers to avoid being seen and photographed with the divisive president. He knows, in many Congressional races, he can only get so close to candidates in their own districts without poisoning their efforts.

If Obama’s a political albatross hanging around his own party’s neck, it makes little sense for him to keep fighting counterproductive battles in legislative districts where Democrats want nothing to do with him. But he can (and does) fundraise on his own, and he can (and does) forge alliances with lobbying interests ostensibly outside of government — alliances that ultimately could prove more effective (for Democrats) than any relationships he might be able to mend in the 113th Congress.

Islamic State Has More British Muslim Fighters Than Britain Does; U.S. Claims Only A ‘Handful’ Of Americans Have Joined

Whether true or not, U.S. intelligence officials will only divulge to media that they believe a “small handful” of Americans are currently fighting as soldiers within the Islamic State.

But one British parliamentarian believes that the terrorist “caliphate” now boasts more British Muslim recruits than are currently enlisted to fight in Britain’s own armed forces.

Member of Parliament Khalid Mahmood of Birmingham UK told Newsweek on Wednesday that Sunni extremists have successfully recruited 1,500 or more British Muslims to fight in Iraq and Syria over the last three years – at least.

“If you look across the whole of the country [of Syria], and the various communities involved, 500 going over each year would be a conservative estimate,” Mahmood said, referencing the recruitment of fighters dating from the outset of the conflict in Syria.

Here’s more from Newsweek:

The UK Foreign Office said that they believe over 400 individuals have travelled to Syria since the uprising began, but said that they could not give exact numbers.

However Mahmood described such low estimates as “nonsense” and said that the British government was failing to deal with the problem of home-grown extremists. “We’ve not concentrated on the prevention work, we haven’t invested enough in de-radicalisation. It’s tragic, somebody’s got to wake up to it.”

The role of British jihadists fighting in the Middle East has been brought into sharp focus after Islamic State released a video showing the apparent beheading of US journalist James Foley by a masked jihadist who spoke with a British accent.

American officials confirmed Wednesday that it was indeed Foley whom the terrorist murdered before the camera.

Also on Wednesday, NBC News said U.S. officials do not believe Americans have been persuaded to join the Islamist extremists in numbers approaching those Mahmood believes have been recruited out of Britain.

“The officials, who spoke with NBC News on condition of anonymity on Wednesday, say they base that opinion on analysis and a string of recent arrests and investigations of U.S. citizens who have sought to join the group that is simultaneously fighting government forces in both Iraq and Syria,” the network reported.

Yet, at least in terms of what’s been made public, no solid information can confirm the assumptions of American intelligence when it comes to the Islamic State’s success in bringing in fighters into Iraq and Syria from the U.S. “The [same U.S.] official emphasized that the U.S. has no specific intelligence identifying any Americans as having fought with ISIS.”

That report also observed that even FBI Director James Comey has recently confessed that it’s impossible for U.S. intelligence to get a solid read on how many Americans in general – not just jihadists – have traveled to Syria. “When I give you the number of more than 100, I can’t tell you with high confidence that’s a 100 of 200, that’s a 100 of 500, that’s a 100 of a 1,000 or more, because it’s so hard to track,” he said.

NYPD Settles With Man Arrested For Photographing Police; Reminds Officers They Cannot Object To Being Filmed

The New York Police Department has awarded a $125,000 settlement to a man who filed a civil rights lawsuit against the department, following a 2012 incident in which he was allegedly arrested and strip searched for filming police officers on duty.

Brooklyn resident Dick George agreed to the settlement, only a few days after the department took new measures to refresh officers’ memories about the public’s right to document their activities.

In June of 2012, George allegedly began taking cell phone pictures after observing NYPD officers conduct a controversial, warrantless stop-and-frisk search of three young men in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn. He allegedly told the subjects of the search to get the officers’ badge numbers, which led to a face-to-face encounter in which one of the cops reportedly said this:

Now we’re going to give you what you deserve for meddling in our business and when we finish with you, you can sue the city for $5 million and get rich, we don’t care.

After being charged with disorderly conduct, George was released that same day. But the lawsuit alleged that, “prior to releasing Plaintiff [George] from the defendant’s [NYPD] custody, the defendant officers purposely deleted all photographic, audio and video recordings from Plaintiff’s cellular telephone in order to destroy and cover up evidence of their unlawful activities depicted therein.”

According to The New York Daily News, the NYPD circulated a department-wide memo last month “reminding the entire force of the public’s right to record their activities on the street.” That memo came in the wake of a highly-publicized video depicting NYPD officers subduing an asthmatic Staten Island man, whose subsequent death a medical examiner attributed to neck compression from a police chokehold, as well as to chest compression from being restrained on the ground.

Republicans Actually Gaining Ground In House Race

As Michelle Obama goads party donors with hopes that Democrats can retake a majority in the House of Representatives this fall, people who get paid to forecast election outcomes just aren’t seeing it.

Political blog Roll Call’s Stu Rothenberg came out with a number of adjustments Monday to The Rothenberg Political Report — a much-followed analysis that attempts to predict how federal and significant state elections will pan out.

All of his adjustments lean toward House Republicans. From the report:

We’re changing The Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call ratings in a half dozen House races, all in favor of Republican candidates:

  • California’s 21st District: The race between Republican Rep. David Valadao and Democrat Amanda Renteria moves from Tossup/Tilts Republican to Leans Republican.
  • California’s 26th District: The race between Democratic Rep. Julia Brownley and Republican Jeff Gorell moves from Democrat Favored to Leans Democratic.
  • Illinois’s 12th District: The race between Democratic Rep. Bill Enyart and Republican Mike Bost moves from Leans Democratic to Tossup/Tilts Democratic.
  • Illinois’s 13th District: The race between Republican Rep. Rodney Davis and Democrat Ann Callis moves from Tossup/Tilts Republican to Leans Republican.
  • Michigan’s 8th District: The race between Republican Mike Bishop and Democrat Eric Schertzing moves from Leans Republican to Republican Favored.
  • Texas’s 23rd District: The race between Democratic Rep. Pete Gallego and Republican Will Hurd moves from Democrat Favored to Leans Democratic.

Those changes reinforce other media outlets’ recent prognostications. USA Today last week released a report bluntly titled “Why Democrats can’t win back the House,” blaming the Democrats’ lost cause on everything from GOP-led redistricting to voter apathy. The paper did mention Obama’s toxic influence, saying that “there is no wave [that favors Democrats] on the horizon, largely because of the president’s unpopularity.”

“Democrats believe, as competitive races become more engaged and the party exercises some of its financial advantage to get its message out, that some contests will turn in their favor,” Roll Call’s Nathan L. Gonzales wrote Monday. “That scenario is possible, but in many cases Democratic challenges aren’t developing as quickly as expected and some Democratic incumbents are struggling to gain their footing.

“Candidates, party committees, and outside groups are polling dozens of House races as they formalize their fall ad strategies,” he continued at the Rothenberg website. “And increasingly the news ranges from good to great for Republicans, and very few competitive races trending toward Democrats.”

That leaves the GOP to focus its real effort not on holding onto its lead in the House, but instead on retaking the Senate.

Everybody Wins! Participation Trophies Linked With Political Persuasion

More than half of Americans believe kids should get trophies only for competitive activities in which they’ve placed or won. But nearly half also think trophies should go to any kid who simply shows up, regardless of whether they excel or fail.

A Reason/Rupe poll conducted earlier this month covered a broad range of topics, but the trophy findings were interesting enough for Reason to devote a standalone article to that portion of the survey. Forty percent of those questioned said every child who participates in an event are deserving of a trophy, while 57 percent responded that trophies should only go to the winners.

Not surprisingly, the “everyone’s a winner” sympathy is stronger among people who identify as Democrats. Emily Ekins, director of polling for the Reason Foundation, broke down that relationship:

The desire for “every kid to get a trophy” strongly correlates with political beliefs. Fully 66 percent of Republicans want only the kids who win to receive trophies, while 31 percent say all kids on the team should receive them. In contrast, Democrats are evenly divided with 48 percent who say all kids, and another 48 percent who say only the winners should receive a trophy.

Breaking it down further, the survey found that independent voters who lean Republican had the highest level of support — 69 percent — for rewarding only those who excel. In fact, a majority from all groups (except for Democrats and their fitting 48-48 percent tie) from across the political spectrum believe only winners should get trophies.

It doesn’t stop at simple party affiliation, though. People who revealed they hold conservative values on certain topics were more apt to favor rewarding only the winners than people who said they hold more liberal views.

“Among those who only think winners should get a trophy, 64 percent have a favorable view of capitalism, 64 percent thinks markets better solve problems than government, and 63 percent favor smaller government providing fewer services,” reported Reason. “In contrast, among those who think all kids should get a trophy, a plurality (49%) have an unfavorable view of capitalism, 50 percent thinks a strong government better solves problems than the free market, and 54 percent favor larger government providing more services.”

In addition, those who have achieved a higher level of education and/or income were more likely to oppose rewarding mere participation. “For instance, a majority (55%) of those making less than $30,000 a year want all kids to get trophies and 42 percent want only the winning players to receive them,” the reports states. “In contrast, among those making $90,000 a year or more, 72 percent want only the winner to receive trophies, while 26 percent favor participation trophies.”

Progressives Everywhere (Except Texas Democrats) Think Rick Perry’s Indictment Is A Joke

It might be a handy Republican icebreaker to joke that a Democrat couldn’t get arrested in Texas these days — except that one did. Now Texas Democrats are trying to weaponize last year’s DWI arrest of a high-profile party official, flying the public disgrace of Travis County district attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, kamikaze-style, right into Republican Gov. Rick Perry’s presidential campaign.

Aside from Texas Democrats and, perhaps, Eric Holder, just about every liberal in the country is mocking last Friday’s indictment of Perry on two felony charges of abusing his power.

The Texas governor stands accused of following through on his threat to veto funding to the Public Integrity Unit of the Travis County district attorney’s office — a veto he carried out because Lehmberg, having lost a significant measure of public confidence herself, refused to resign as district attorney and leave the office vacant for a Perry-appointed replacement.

The Travis County Public Integrity unit has jurisdiction over Austin, giving it special significance for its oversight powers in the capital city. It also has statewide investigative powers not shared by other county-level Public Integrity Units (such as the one for Dallas County). The Austin Chronicle’s Jordan Smith explained this in an Aug. 6 article:

In the wake of Lehmberg’s April drunk driving arrest and conviction, for which she was sentenced to 45 days in jail (she served 20), Perry vowed to veto $3.7 million per year in biennial funding for the PIU, which has statewide jurisdiction in certain kinds of fraud and corruption cases, unless Lehmberg resigned her post.

… The Travis County DA’s office has special statutory jurisdiction in insurance and motor fuel tax fraud cases. Because the seat of state government is here, the PIU also prosecutes other tax and financial crimes that may have elements that happen elsewhere because certain key aspects of the crime, like the filing of legal forms — think campaign finance, for example — happen in Austin, which is squarely within the D.A.’s regular jurisdiction, even if the fraudulent documents were filed by a candidate or officeholder from some other county. That said, Lehmberg told Commissioners, the kind of high-profile political corruption cases that the PIU is typically associated with — read, the prosecution of Tom DeLay — make up but a small percentage of what the PIU does.

“Politics” is the word. Republicans dominate state politics in Texas. Democrats long for the days of Ann Richards, but they have a bastion in the state capital: Austin, Texas’ most politically progressive major city and an electoral haven for Democrats.

Travis County is where all this went down. Lehmberg killed herself politically by choosing to put herself in a position to earn a DWI: a position that challenged law enforcement officers — all of whom certainly knew they were dealing with the district attorney — to test her and arrest her.

Short of getting physically violent, Lehmberg behaved about as badly during her arrest as a public official’s worst enemy ever could hope for: She tried to throw her weight around. She insinuated her crony ties could exonerate her, and that they could harm the careers of the officers handling her on the night of her arrest. She demanded special treatment, privileges that anyone — especially the district attorney — knows aren’t afforded detainees. She behaved like a petulant, spoiled, self-indulgent narcissist whose primary concern was for herself and her career — not for the safety or the liberties of the people of Travis County. She asked for, and swiftly received, the swift due process that eludes so many others stuck between arrest date and arraignment.

Oh, and she blew nearly three times the legal limit — a significant length of time after taking her last drink, getting stopped by police, failing a field sobriety test and being taken into custody.

Alcohol may be the answer to un-watching that. Here’s an interesting bit of conjectural sleuthing on Lehmberg’s alleged relationship with alcohol.

It’s very possible that Perry’s motives aren’t entirely pure when it comes to the long battle for control over the Travis County Public Integrity Unit.

“There is also a question about whether he had ulterior motives in defunding a public integrity unit that was investigating a cancer research fund that the Dallas Morning News called one of the governor’s ‘signature projects,’” The Washington Post offered Saturday. “They also note that some of those responsible for bringing the indictment have Republican connections.”

The Texas Tribune also observes that “[d]ismantling the [Travis County Public Integrity] unit is a perennial platform plank of the Texas Republican Party, and numerous members of the GOP … have criticized what they view as its politically motivated prosecutions.”

According to [former D.A. Ronnie] Earle, between 1978 and when he retired, in 2008, he prosecuted 19 elected officials, just five of whom were Republicans. Cathie Adams, the former Republican Party of Texas chair, filed an equal protection lawsuit over the issue in federal court last year. Her argument: Why should the voters of Travis County get to elect an official who has the power to prosecute offenses statewide? A frequently proposed solution — and one that state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, put forth unsuccessfully during the last legislative session — would be to put state corruption probes under the statewide-elected Attorney General.

Sounds like a plan. The squabble over control, funding and oversight of the Travis County Public Integrity Unit predates the Perry-Lehmberg face-off by many years, and Perry has seldom been criticized for emphasizing that Lehmberg lost the the public’s trust to continue directing its “integrity” office the moment she so richly earned that DWI.

And even Perry’s detractors outside of Texas think the indictment’s all kinds of politically motivated crazy.

In a posting titled “This Indictment Of Rick Perry Is Unbelievably Ridiculous,” liberal New York Magazine writer Jonathan Chait pointed out the stupidity of prosecuting the governor for threatening a veto:

They say a prosecutor could get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich, and this always seemed like hyperbole, until Friday night a Texas grand jury announced an indictment of governor Rick Perry.

… The prosecutors claim that, while vetoing the bill may be an official action, threatening a veto is not. Of course the threat of the veto is an integral part of its function. The legislature can hardly negotiate with the governor if he won’t tell them in advance what he plans to veto. This is why, when you say the word “veto,” the next word that springs to mind is “threat.” That’s how vetoes work.

The theory behind the indictment is flexible enough that almost any kind of political conflict could be defined as a “misuse” of power or “coercion” of one’s opponents. To describe the indictment as “frivolous” gives it far more credence than it deserves. Perry may not be much smarter than a ham sandwich, but he is exactly as guilty as one.

ThinkProgress, which naturally will vilify any GOP presidential candidate, questioned the soundness of the indictment in the softest language it could conjure:

Though the state legislature probably could limit this veto power in extreme cases — if a state governor literally sold his veto to wealthy interest groups, for example, the legislature could almost certainly make that a crime — a law that cuts too deep into the governor’s veto power raises serious separation of powers concerns. Imagine that the legislature passed a law prohibiting Democratic governors from vetoing restrictions on abortion, or prohibiting Republican governors from vetoing funding for Planned Parenthood. Such laws would rework the balance of power between the executive and the legislature established by the state constitution, and they would almost certainly be unconstitutional.

Over the weekend, the liberal/progressive roll call of indictment doubters kept coming out of the woodwork.

Retired Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz told Newsmax he’d never vote for a conservative like Perry, but was nevertheless “outraged” at the “un-American” indictment. “Everybody, liberal or conservative, should stand against this indictment. If you don’t like how Rick Perry uses his office, don’t vote for him,” Dershowitz said. “This is another example of the criminalization of party differences … and this has to stop once and for all.”

“Unless he was demonstrably trying to scrap the ethics unit for other than his stated reason, Perry indictment seems pretty sketchy,” former Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod tweeted Saturday.

POLITICO’s Ben White tweeted a similar opinion — that it “seems quite perverse to indict a governor for exercising his clearly delineated constitutional authority.”

Even liberal celebrity Mia Farrow tweeted (and then deleted) her disgust, telling the world on Aug. 16 that “I’m no Rick Perry fan but the indictment doesn’t identify a law he violated. Looks like politics not felony” — before taking her posting down.

In the midst of it all, Lehmberg is still the Travis County district attorney.

Another Tech Giant Announces Layoffs After Clamoring For Immigration Reform

Cisco Systems, one among the dozens of U.S. tech companies imploring Congress to relax immigration laws and ease restrictions on foreign worker visas, announced last week that it will cut 6,000 jobs in 2015.

The company has made similar job-cut announcements in four of the past seven years, according to the Silicon Valley Business Journal.

Cisco joined with other companies and organizations in July, signing off on a letter to House leadership requesting “meaningful reforms to critical components of our nation’s immigration system.” Tech companies in particular have also led the call for Congress to liberalize the requirements for foreign workers in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields to obtain work visas.

Much recent academic research has been devoted to debunking the tech sector’s claim that there’s a shortage of qualified domestic STEM labor.

“[A]ccording to the National Science Board’s authoritative publication Science and Engineering Indicators 2008, the country turns out three times as many STEM degrees as the economy can absorb into jobs related to their majors,” wrote the Columbia Journalism Review in 2012:

So what’s going on? Simply put, a desire for cheap, skilled labor, within the business world and academia, has fueled assertions — based on flimsy and distorted evidence — that American students lack the interest and ability to pursue careers in science and engineering, and has spurred policies that have flooded the market with foreign STEM workers.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates has been at the forefront of the movement to import STEM labor into the U.S. Then Microsoft announced in July that it would eliminate 18,000 jobs.

A group of policy professors responded to that news with an editorial in USA Today, again calling attention to the cheap-labor corporate agenda.

“Those supporting even greater expansion seem to have forgotten about the hundreds of thousands of American high-tech workers who are being shortchanged — by wages stuck at 1998 levels, by diminished career prospects and by repeated rounds of layoffs,” the academics wrote. “… IT industry leaders have spent lavishly on lobbying to promote their STEM shortage claims among legislators. The only problem is that the evidence contradicts their self-interested claims.”

Ferguson Events Offer A Reminder: You Can Photograph Police On The Job

It is legal to photograph or video record police officers in public as they carry out their duties. And, as a recent court ruling reinforces, it’s absolutely legal to photograph police on your property, even (rather, especially) during the execution of a search warrant.

Just because something is legal doesn’t mean the police will honor it. That’s the crux of the argument for protest against police who kill in the absence of a threat, or those who, with much greater frequency, deny due process in hundreds of little ways to Americans every day.

The chaos in Ferguson, Missouri, over the police shooting of Michael Brown has drawn national media attention. Reporters from major networks and newspapers have converged on Ferguson to report on the shooting, the rioting and the inevitable, regrettable appearance of Al Sharpton.

But in doing so, the press has become a part of the story. At least two reporters for separate news organizations have been detained simply for documenting what they saw.

Here’s Martin D. Baron, executive editor for The Washington Post, on the Ferguson Police Department’s treatment of reporter Wesley Lowery. Lowery and another reporter from The Huffington Post were detained inside a McDonald’s after several officers came inside the restaurant, told them to leave and ordered Lowery to stop filming once he’d whipped out his phone to document what was taking place:

Wesley has briefed us on what occurred, and there was absolutely no justification for his arrest.

He was illegally instructed to stop taking video of officers. Then he followed officers’ instructions to leave a McDonald’s — and after contradictory instructions on how to exit, he was slammed against a soda machine and then handcuffed. That behavior was wholly unwarranted and an assault on the freedom of the press to cover the news. The physical risk to Wesley himself is obvious and outrageous.

After being placed in a holding cell, he was released with no charges and no explanation. He was denied information about the names and badge numbers of those who arrested him.

We are relieved that Wesley is going to be OK. We are appalled by the conduct of police officers involved.

At one point after the police had placed Lowery and the other reporter, Ryan Reilly, in a cruiser, Lowery wrote about the following exchange:

A woman — with a collar identifying her as a member of the clergy — sat in the back. Ryan and I crammed in next to her, and we took the three-minute ride to the Ferguson Police Department. The woman sang hymns throughout the ride.

During this time, we asked the officers for badge numbers. We asked to speak to a supervising officer. We asked why we were being detained. We were told: trespassing in a McDonald’s.

“I hope you’re happy with yourself,” one officer told me. And I responded: “This story’s going to get out there. It’s going to be on the front page of The Washington Post tomorrow.”

And he said, “Yeah, well, you’re going to be in my jail cell tonight.”

Lowery’s one foil against the cops was his power as a member of the press. It ultimately worked — he and Reilly were let go after spending a short time in a cell, with no charges filed.

But it’s vital to emphasize that his rights are the same as any American’s: It’s not illegal for anyone to record what the police do in public.

“The arrest and intimidation of journalists for documenting the events in Ferguson is particularly disturbing because it interferes with the ability of the press to hold the government accountable,” wrote The Atlantic’s Olag Khazan last week. “But actually, anyone — journalist or otherwise — can take a photo of a police officer.

“Citizens have the right to take pictures of anything in plain view in a public space, including police officers and federal buildings. Police cannot confiscate, demand to view, or delete digital photos. Private property owners can set different rules for recording, but it did not appear from Lowery’s account that the McDonald’s manager was objecting to his video recording… Police officers frequently ignore these laws.”

And there’s the rub. Americans must routinely weigh their risks before participating in legal activities — if the police are nearby.

IRS Contradicts Itself On Lerner Hard Drive Testimony; Judge Sets Another Deadline For Agency To Get Its Story Straight

The IRS will have until August 22 to explain to a Federal judge how it is attempting to recover Lois Lerner’s missing emails, as well as its policy relating to destroying computer equipment. The judge set the deadline after documents obtained via a FOIA request revealed agency officials had presented conflicting testimony, under oath, about the extent to which Lerner’s hard drive had been damaged before it was allegedly destroyed.

The order, given by U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, marks the next step in a long-brewing lawsuit against the IRS brought by nonprofit accountability organization Judicial Watch. From a report at The Daily Caller on the judge’s order:

Aaron Signor, an IRS technician that looked at Lerner’s hard drive in June 2011, said in IRS court filings that he saw no damage to the drive before sending it off to another IRS technician, leading some in the media to suggest that the lost emails scandal is basically over. But Signor’s statement, issued in response to the Judicial Watch lawsuit, does not jibe with sworn congressional testimony.

The Daily Caller reported that Lerner’s hard drive was “scratched” and then “shredded,” according to a court filing the IRS made to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

The IRS technology official who served as the source of the “scratched” and “shredded” revelation is believed to have looked at the hard drive after Signor.

Sullivan’s order seems to have been motivated by the obvious contradiction. Judicial Watch said that Sullivan made the order because the IRS’ new court filing featuring Signor’s statement was a “joke.”

You can read the rest of that report here.

We’ve been here before. Sullivan had initially ordered the IRS to submit a similar statement, under oath, in July, giving the agency 30 days to explain how Lerner’s emails turned up missing. In a separate lawsuit brought by Texas conservative nonprofit True the Vote, another Federal judge decided earlier this month that the IRS would not be forced (in that case, at least) to submit to an independent forensic investigation searching for the missing emails.

Meanwhile, investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson revealed today that another Obama Administration official had requested an HHS spokesman to delete an email she had sent pertaining (it seems) to the botched rollout of the Obamacare website, Healthcare.gov. It’s against the law for Federal officials to delete their work emails, which are instead supposed to be archived and printed.

From Attkisson’s website:

An email obtained by Congress shows the top official for Healthcare.gov at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under the Department of Health and Human Services, Marilyn Tavenner, instructed the agency’s top spokesman to “Please delete this email.”

The instruction appears significant for several reasons: First, the email to be deleted included an exchange between key White House officials and CMS  officials. Second, the email was dated October 5, 2013, five days into the disastrous launch of HealthCare.gov. Third, federal law requires federal officials to retain copies of –not delete– email exchanges. And fourth, the document to be deleted is covered under Congressional subpoena as well as longstanding Freedom of Information requests made by members of the media (including me).

Former DARPA Director Broke Ethics Rules By Encouraging Government Funds Flow To Company She Founded

Regina Dugan, the former director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), has been scolded in a U.S. Inspector General’s report for improperly granting her blessing to agency contracts that were awarded to a company she had previously founded — and in which she continues to hold a financial share.

Dugan, who has given her own TED talk to inspire innovative thinking among would-be tech leaders, founded and still holds a financial stake in RedXDefense, which designs detection devices for drugs and explosives. She was the company’s CEO until 2009, when she departed to take over at DARPA.

During her time at DARPA, Dugan refrained from involving herself directly in any contract-awarding process for which RedXDefense was a bidder. But the company nevertheless received major contracts which drew the scrutiny of the Inspector General’s office in 2011.

From a report at The Verge Thursday:

[A]fter RedXDefense won $1.75 million in contracts under Dugan’s eye, a watchdog group called for the IG to make sure “DARPA selects and awards grants and contracts with integrity.” That complaint was filed in 2011 and an investigation got underway soon thereafter. Dugan ultimately left her post (and government work) a few months later to join Google’s ranks.

…In regards to the investigation, Dugan and DARPA insisted there was no favoritism, pointing to the many contracts RedXDefense had lost out on as proof. But the IG reached a different conclusion. “We determined that Dr. Dugan violated the prohibition against using her government position for the stated or implied endorsement of a product, service, or enterprise,” said the report.

That finding hardly took the form of a reprimand, however — the IG report did not recommend prosecution or discipline, and none has been forthcoming since the case was closed.