Knoxville — U.S. Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) referred to the Obama Administration today as the "most stonewalling" administration with which he has worked.
Grassley was asked about an e-mail from Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes, written three days after the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which instructed officials to "underscore that these protests were rooted in an Internet video and not a broader failure of policy" when addressing the incident. The attack cost the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.
Former U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice appeared on major Sunday morning public affairs programs days after and blamed the video. Subsequent investigations have shown that the attack was pre-planned.
Judicial Watch is the organization who obtained the e-mail messages, through a Freedom of Information Act request. The news outlet had been seeking the documents since Oct. 18, 2012. A lawsuit was filed on June 21, 2013, to gain access to the documents. A judge involved in the case was being questioned by a Senate panel, which included Grassley, today. Grassley intends to vote against the judge's confirmation to District Court.
Grassley is disappointed that the Administration, which promised early on in the Obama Presidency to be the "most transparent" the nation has ever known, has not been transparent on this issue, and others. As for his thoughts on Judicial Watch's actions and the government's response, he believes it shows that the Administration did not share all of the information it had.
"I think it proves they were not fully transparent with us," Grassley said. In response to our question, Grassley read a direct quote from the emails. When the attack occurred, President Barack Obama was in the middle of a reelection campaign.
"You can see this is a political document," Grassley said.
Grassley was first elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1974, where he served until his election to the Senate in 1980. He served as a federal legislator under seven United States Presidents. While Grassley has had problems with past Administrations standing against information requests, he believes the Obama Administration is the worst.
"They are the most stonewalling," Grassley said of the current Administration.
This case is not the first time Grassley has attempted to get more information from the Administration about an issue. Past instances include the Fast and Furious gun-running program, the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of conservative groups prior to the 2012 election and the NSA domestic spying program.
The Judicial Watch story and documents can be found here: http://www.judicialwatch.org/press-room/press-releases/judicial-watch-benghazi-documents-point-white-house-misleading-talking-points/.
Grassley was among the Republicans who voted against Sen. Tom Harkin's (D-IA) minimum wage bill. Harkin sought to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.
Republicans blocked the bill from coming to the floor. According to Grassley, the rule change made by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) that reduces the number of votes required to bring an issue to the floor only applies to judges and executive appointees. Other legislation still requires 60 votes to be brought up for a vote.
Grassley said his stance against the bill was twofold. There was a process failure, in which Reid refused to allow any amendments - including any from Democrats - to be added on to the legislation.
"That's contrary to the purpose of the Senate," Grassley said. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) was working on a bipartisan bill that was not entertained by the Senate.
Grassley cited a substantive reason for his lack of support as well. According to Grassley, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that the minimum wage increase would have cost the American economy between 500,000-1,000,000 jobs.
"Why would you vote to increase unemployment?" Grassley asked.
The audio from today's interview will be posted at http://www.grassley.senate.gov/news/audio.cfm.