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As a trio of scandals continued to circle the White House on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid threw some jabs at Republicans regarding the IRS and Benghazi controversies. Then he landed a roundhouse on the Obama administration over the Justice Department’s secret acquisition of Associated Press telephone records.
“I have trouble defending what the Justice Department did in going after — looking at The AP,” the Nevada Democrat said in the most unequivocal statement regarding the three issues that have consumed Washington the past few days. “And I really believe in the First Amendment,” Reid continued. “I think it’s one of the great things we have as a country. And I don’t know who did it or why it was done, but it’s inexcusable and there’s no way to justify this.”
On Benghazi, Reid said Republicans were “hyperventilating,” accusing them of creating a “side show” following news last week of emails about the talking points that would go out after the Sept. 11, 2012, attack in Libya that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three others.
“This issue is about generating headlines and campaign fodder for Republicans, and nothing else,” he said.
On the IRS scandal, which popped up last week when the agency admitted to targeting conservative groups for extra scrutiny, Reid used the opportunity to accuse the GOP of hypocrisy and to plug Democrats’ legislation to require more campaign finance disclosure.
“In 2010 we advanced — Democrats advanced something called the DISCLOSE Act that would have taken the IRS out of the business of investigating these groups. Not a single Republican voted with us on the DISCLOSE Act. So, again I ask, where was the outrage of the Republicans then?” Reid said.
But on the AP imbroglio, Reid gave it to the administration and brought up the specter of some sort of “legislative action.” Speaking to a corridor full of reporters Tuesday, Reid said: “I — in my career, I’ve stood consistently for freedom of the press from encroachment by the national security community. I’m gonna continue to do that. It’s an issue I feel very strongly about. And look into further — I’ll look further into whether more legislative action is needed in this regard to secure freedom of the press.”
Down Pennsylvania Avenue, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney faced a press corps hungry for answers on the AP probe, which he said the White House was not involved in.
He did, though, say that a “careful balance here must be attained,” between an “unfettered” press and finding out how classified information is leaked.