New documents: White House scrambled to justify AmeriCorps firing after the fact
A cover-up so badly botched the only response is laughter.
Just hours after Sen. Charles Grassley and Rep. Darrell Issa released a report Friday on their investigation into the abrupt firing of AmeriCorps inspector general Gerald Walpin, the Obama White House gave the lawmakers a trove of new, previously-withheld documents on the affair.
It was a twist/spin on the now-familiar White House late-Friday release of bad news; this time, the new evidence was put out not only at the start of a weekend but also hours too late for inclusion in the report.
The new documents support the Republican investigators' conclusion that the White House's explanation for Walpin's dismissal
-- that it came after the board of the Corporation for National and Community Service, which oversees AmeriCorps, unanimously decided that Walpin must go
-- was in fact a public story cobbled together after Walpin was fired, not before.
Walpin was axed on the evening of June 10, when he received a call from Norman Eisen, the special counsel to the president for ethics and government reform, who told Walpin he had one hour either to resign or be fired.
The next day, congressional Republicans, led by Grassley, objected, charging that Walpin's dismissal violated a recently-passed law requiring the president to give Congress 30 days' notice before dismissing an inspector general.
Pressed for the reason Walpin was fired, Eisen told House and Senate aides that the White House conducted an "extensive review" of complaints about Walpin’s performance before deciding to dismiss him.
According to the new report, Eisen told Congress that "his investigation into the merits of removing Gerald Walpin involved contacting members of the Corporation for National and Community Service [CNCS] board to confirm the existence of a 'consensus' in favor of removal."
But Republican investigators later discovered that during that "extensive review," the White House did not even seek the views of the corporation's board -- the very people whose "consensus" purportedly led to Walpin's firing.
Other than board chairman Alan Solomont, the Democratic mega-donor and Obama supporter who originally told the White House of his dissatisfaction with Walpin, "no member of the CNCS board had any substantive input about whether the removal of Gerald Walpin was appropriate," according to the report.
Only one other board member, vice-chairman Stephen Goldsmith, was even called by the White House, and that was on June 10, a few hours before Walpin was fired.
According to the report, Goldsmith told investigators that "the White House had already decided to remove Walpin and wanted to confirm [Goldsmith's] support for the action."
The new documents show the White House scrambling, in the days after the controversy erupted, to put together a public explanation for the firing.
On June 11, less than 24 hours after Walpin received the call from Eisen, the board held a conference call.
The next day, Ranit Schmelzer, who is part of the corporation's press office, sent an email to board members giving them talking points to use if contacted by reporters seeking information about the matter.