Walpin Speaks, Obama Administration Clams Up

Fired Inspector General Gerald Walpin has responded aggressively to new claims by the Obama administration that he was fired from his job because he was “confused,” and, perhaps, senile. Byron York records Walpin’s response, which is, to say the least, coherent, much more than we can say for Obama’s ever-shifting stories about why he fired an Inspector General who caused trouble for a prominent supporter of the administration. Byron himself notes that Walpin exhibits no sign of any “confusion:”

The White House suggestion that Walpin, who is 77 years old, is somehow mentally not up to his job and cannot perform his duties has caused great skepticism among Republicans on Capitol Hill. GOP investigators have talked to Walpin and found him entirely sharp and focused. “He has been collected and coherent,” says one investigator. “What the White House described is not the experience that we have had in dealing with him.” (That is also my own experience, having talked with Walpin for a total of about two hours since the weekend.) In addition, Walpin has also performed well in recent high-profile media appearances.

This is classic Obama: an Inspector General investigates how a non-profit in Sacramento uses AmeriCorps funds and finds that the head of the organization, a prominent Obama supporter, used a lot of the money to pay recipients to wash his car, run errands for him, etc. The Inspector General blows the whistle, and promptly finds himself in Obama’s crosshairs. Obama, in his usual bullying way, first demands that he resign within an hour. When Walpin refuses to do so, Obama high-handedly fires him without stating any cause, in apparent violation of the 2008 statute, co-sponsored by Obama, which was intended to assure the independence of the Inspectors General. When Senate Democrats expressed their dissatisfaction with that end-run around the law, Obama invented a whole new story to the effect that Walpin had to be fired because he was senile and incompetent.

Now Senate Republicans are pushing back, as Byron also notes, and the Obama administration is retreating in disarray:

Norman Eisen, the White House Special Counsel to the President for Ethics and Government Reform, met with investigators on the staff of Republican Sen. Charles Grassley at Grassley’s offices this morning. The investigators wanted to learn more about the circumstances surrounding the abrupt firing of AmeriCorps inspector general Gerald Walpin. According to Grassley, Eisen revealed very, very little, refusing to answer many questions of fact put to him. And now Grassley has written a letter to the White House counsel asking for answers. …

At today’s meeting, Sen. Grassley’s staffers wanted to know more about the White House review. “Unfortunately,” Grassley writes in a letter just sent to White House counsel Gregory Craig, “Mr. Eisen refused to answer several direct questions posed to him about the representations made in his letter.” Grassley says that since Eisen refused to answer the questions in person, Grassley would submit a dozen of them in writing. Here they are:

1) Did the [Corporation for National and Community Service] Board communicate its concerns about Mr. Walpin to the White House in writing?

2) Specifically, which CNCS Board members came forward with concerns about Mr. Walpin’s ability to serve as the Inspector General?

3) Was the communication about the Board’s concerns on or about May 20, 2009 the first instance of any communications with White House personnel regarding the possibility of removing Mr. Walpin?

4) Which witnesses were interviewed in the course of Mr. Eisen’s review?

5) How many witnesses were interviewed?

6) Were any employees of the Office of Inspector General, who may have had more frequent contact with Mr. Walpin than the Board members, interviewed?

7) Was Mr. Walpin asked directly during Mr. Eisen’s review about the events of May 20, 2009?

8) Was Mr. Walpin asked for his response to the allegations submitted to the Integrity Committee by Acting U.S. Attorney Lawrence Brown?

9) What efforts were made during Mr. Eisen’s review to obtain both sides of the story or to afford the Office of Inspector General an opportunity to be heard?

10) In addition to the claim that Mr. Walpin was “confused” and “disoriented,” the letter also says he exhibited “other behavior” that led to questions about his capacity. What other behavior was Mr. Eisen referencing?

11) If the initial and primary concern had to do with Mr. Walpin’s capacity to serve for potential health reasons, why was he only given one hour to decide whether to resign or be fired?

12) If Mr. Walpin’s telecommuting arrangements since the beginning of this year were a major concern, then why was Mr. Walpin not simply asked to stop telecommuting?

It will be interesting to see what stories the administration comes up with next. This abuse of power business is proving a little trickier than Barack Obama had bargained for.

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