Last week, CBS News reporter Sharyl Attkisson revealed that an Obama administration spokesman screamed and cursed at her in an attempt to get her to back off of the Operation Fast and Furious scandal. Roll Call’s Jonathan Strong reports this morning that Schultz just found a subpoena on his doorstep along with Eric Holder and host of other figures, but Schultz’ position in the White House itself makes him unique:
House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) made headlines this week byissuing a subpoena for documents from Attorney General Eric Holderabout a botched weapons investigation, but Holder is apparently not Issa’s only target.
A little-noticed provision of the subpoena targets the White House, specifically naming Eric Schultz, a communications aide who was hired in May to respond to media inquiries on oversight matters. …
The subpoena also requires Holder to produce “all communications between and among Department of Justice (DOJ) employees and Executive Office of the President employees, including but not limited to Associate Communications Director Eric Schultz, referring or relating to Operation Fast and Furious or any other firearms trafficking cases.”
Strong’s source on the Oversight Committee says that the subpoena for Schultz came from suspicions that the White House was directing the DoJ’s resistance to document requests. Issa himself told Strong that the committee knew that communications flowed between Schultz and F&F officials, but had been told they were of a personal nature. The committee isn’t taking that at face value:
“The question is whether the White House has been instructing the Justice Department on what [documents] to release,” the source said.
The source added that recent allegations by a CBS reporter that Schultz yelled at her over her coverage of Fast and Furious in part prompted Issa’s questions on the matter, but the source maintained that the inquiry is unrelated to Schultz’s communications with reporters.
Really? Well, perhaps, but I suspect that the committee might be interested in any e-mails that instructed Schultz to start intimidating reporters who have looked into F&F as well. Let’s revisit Attkisson’s recollection of her treatment by administration flacks:
Laura: So they were literally screaming at you?
Attkisson: Yes. Well the DOJ woman was just yelling at me. The guy from the White House on Friday night literally screamed at me and cussed at me.
Laura: Who was the person? Who was the person at Justice screaming?
Attkisson: Eric Schultz. Oh, the person screaming was [DOJ spokeswoman] Tracy Schmaler, she was yelling not screaming. And the person who screamed at me was Eric Schultz at the White House.” …
And I’m certainly not the one to make the case for DOJ and White House about what I’m doing wrong. They will tell you that I’m the only reporter–as they told me–that is not reasonable. They say the Washington Post is reasonable, the LA Times is reasonable, the New York Times is reasonable, I’m the only one who thinks this is a story, and they think I’m unfair and biased by pursuing it.
Since Schultz was brought into the White House strictly for the purpose of dealing with Issa and the Oversight Committee, this is a rather interesting and aggressive tactic. Unlike the DoJ internal correspondence, the White House could have a case for executive privilege on internal communications involving Schultz on discussions related to Fast and Furious, but it would be political dynamite to make that claim. If Obama demands to keep those communications secret, the obvious implication will be that Schultz was ordered to intimidate Attkisson into backing down, which isn’t a crime in itself but is a stinkbomb in the middle of the Hope and Change campaign. Plus, people will naturally ask themselves why the White House wanted to intimidate reporters into silence if they did nothing wrong in F&F.
Heck, that might even wake up the “reasonable” folks at the Washington Post and New York Times.