McCain: Obama’s credibility ‘at stake’ amid IRS, DOJ probes

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Monday said that President Obama’s “credibility is obviously at stake” amid a trio of controversies, and urged the president to do more to address them and restore public confidence. 

“We have a lot of things that he needs to lead on, and if he’s mired in these scandals, it’s going to be difficult for him to do that,” said McCain on CBS’s “This Morning.”

“Far be it for me to give advice to the president of the United States, but you may remember after Iran Contra Ronald Reagan went on national television and said ‘I’m responsible, we’ve done wrong and I’m responsible,’ said McCain. “I’m not saying the president should do that, but the president I think should be thinking about how to get these issues behind him.”

The White House is facing congressional anger over the IRS scandal involving targeting of conservative groups, as well as the Justice Department’s seizure of reporters’ phone and email records in leak investigations and persistent questions over the administration’s handling of the Benghazi attack.

In a separate interview on NBC’s “Today” show, McCain addressed the IRS scandal and would not rule out the possibility that the targeting was directed from superiors at IRS headquarters in Washington, D.C., a charge leveled by House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) 

“I think that’s the reason why we need to have hearings, maybe even a select committee may be called for given the questions surrounding this investigation,” said McCain. 

“I think we ought to wait and see how events unfold,” he added. “There may be an argument for a special counsel here, but let’s wait and see.”

Issa who is leading Oversight’s probe said on Sunday that initial interviews with employees of the IRS office in Cincinnati responsible for tax exemption claims had shown that the targeting was “being directly ordered from Washington.”

The top Democrat on the Oversight panel, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), however, quickly rejected those claims, calling them “reckless” allegations.

Lawmakers are also probing the IRS’s spending on conferences, with the Treasury inspector general’s office set to release a report on Tuesday that the agency spent $50 million on those events over a three-year period from 2010 to 2012. The Oversight committee will hold hearings on the matter Thursday.

McCain addressed a video which surfaced last week which shows IRS employees taking line dancing lessons at a conference paid for by taxpayers.

“You wonder: Why do they keep doing this stuff? It just hurts their credibility enormously,” said McCain on NBC.

McCain also declined to call for Attorney General Eric Holder’s resignation, but said his effectiveness had been damaged amid the controversy over the Justice Department’s investigation of reporters over national security leaks.

Lawmakers are also looking into whether Holder lied when testifying about possible criminal prosecutions of journalists over leaked secrets.

“I think Eric Holder has some questions to ask, answer. He’s damaged his credibility and he must ask himself if he’s really effectively serving the president of the United States,” said McCain.

“Clearly there have been some contradictory statement and the press understandably should be concerned about what we have found about their tactics.”