Facing a trio of possible scandals that threaten to overwhelm his second term agenda, President Barack Obama on Thursday rejected calls for a special counsel to investigate Internal Revenue Service targeting of conservative groups and declared he would fix any problems in government.
“My concern is making sure that if there is a problem in the government that we fix it,” Obama told a Rose Garden news conference with visiting Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “That’s my responsibility, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
A light rain suddenly turned heavier when Obama began speaking, symbolizing his political woes that prompted him to make a trio of moves this week intended to regain the momentum or at least halt the damage.
The steps Wednesday represented a counter-attack by the suddenly beleaguered president against Republican attacks that his administration defied accountability in the IRS targeting, as well as secret subpoena of journalist phone records and erroneous talking points in the immediate aftermath of last year’s Benghazi terrorist attack.
At a hastily arranged televised statement Wednesday night, Obama announced the acting IRS commissioner was forced to resign over the extra scrutiny given conservative groups seeking tax exempt status.
Earlier, the White House announced its support for strengthening protections of journalists and confidential sources even as Attorney General Eric Holder evaded questions at a congressional hearing about how his Justice Department obtained phone records of The Associated Press from 2012 as part of an investigation of classified leaks.
In addition, the White House released more than 100 pages of e-mails sought by GOP critics about the talking points on the September attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.
Despite those steps, U.S. journalists continued raising those issues at Thursday’s news conference with Erdogan.
When asked if a special prosecutor should be appointed in the IRS case documented by the agency’s inspector general, Obama responded that “I think that it’s going to be sufficient for us to be working with Congress.”
Between congressional committees looking into it, including the first hearing on Friday by a House panel, a criminal investigation launched by Attorney General Eric Holder and the inspector general’s report and likely further investigation, “I think we’re going to be able to figure out exactly what happened, who was involved, what went wrong, and we’re going to be able to implement steps to fix it.”