Despite the efforts of Obama administration to go after Gerald Walpin personally, it looks as if the scandal that the former IG was trying to investigate, as well as the cover-up, may be collapsing under its own weight.
Until a few months Walpin was the Inspector General for AmeriCorps. He claims he was fired because he made the mistake of Investigation a friend of Michelle Obama (FOO) Kevin Johnson, former NBA star who is now mayor of Sacramento, California, for the misuse of AmeriCorps funds.
Pressed for a reasoning for the dismissal the Administration trashed Walpin hinting that he was in the early stages of dementia. They said the IG seemed “disoriented” at one meeting. Walpin’s version of the story was confirmed by a AmeriCorps board member who confirmed that he was fired to protect the Democrats from a political scandal.
A GOP report contends that the Obama White House was politically motivated when it fired inspector general Gerald Walpin after his 2008 investigation of Kevin Johnson, now Sacramento’s mayor. The report by Rep Issa and Senator Grassley criticizes the White House ethics counsel, for not examining what Walpin had been investigating at the time of his dismissal, including the allegations of sexual misconduct by Johnson and hush-money payoffs by his now-fiancee Michelle Rhee.
New Evidence just released is that the First Lady’s former Chief of Staff Jackie Norris, met with Alan Solomont of Corporation for National and Community Service, which oversees AmeriCorps in an attempt to keep the scandal away from Michelle Obama.
Did AmeriCorps official lie about possible First Lady link to IG firing?
By: Byron York
Congressional investigators looking into the abrupt firing of AmeriCorps inspector general Gerald Walpin have discovered that the head of AmeriCorps met with a top aide to First Lady Michelle Obama the day before Walpin was removed.
According to Republican investigators, Alan Solomont, then the chairman of the Corporation for National and Community Service, which oversees AmeriCorps, had denied meeting with Jackie Norris, at the time the First Lady’s chief of staff. But recently-released White House visitor logs show that Solomont met with Norris on June 9 of this year (as well as on two earlier occasions). President Obama fired Walpin on June 10 after an intense dispute over Walpin’s aggressive investigation of misuse of AmeriCorps money by Obama political ally Kevin Johnson, the mayor of Sacramento, California.
After being presented with the visitor logs, investigators say, Solomont explained that he met with Norris to discuss Corporation business but did not discuss the Walpin matter. When pressed, Solomont said he might have made an offhand comment, or a mention in passing, about the Walpin affair, but that he and Norris did not have a discussion about it.
Solomont’s explanations have left both Rep. Darrell Issa, ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Sen. Charles Grassley, top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, frustrated and vowing to continue their investigation of the Walpin matter. In a letter to Solomont, sent Friday, Issa wrote that he has “serious questions about the veracity of your testimony.” In a statement Saturday, Grassley said he is “concerned about the accuracy and completeness of Mr. Solomont’s answers to questions.”
Issa’s letter to Solomont laid out in detail the sequence of events that led investigators to suspect there were problems with Solomont’s testimony. According to the letter, as well as discussions with knowledgeable sources, this is what happened:
After the president fired Walpin on June 10 — without giving prior notice to Congress as required by law — investigators in Issa’s and Grassley’s offices wanted to know more about what led to the firing. Solomont agreed to be interviewed on July 15.
During that interview, Solomont was asked to give the names of people at the White House with whom he had discussed Corporation business. He cited five people — White House counsel Gregory Craig, counsel’s office lawyer Norman Eisen, and three officials from something called the White House Office of Social Innovation. Then Solomont was asked with whom he had specifically discussed the inspector general matter. He said Craig and Eisen. According to investigators, Solomont did not mention Norris in response to either question. Then, he was specifically asked whether he had talked with Norris. He said no.
GOP investigators were particularly curious about Norris because First Lady Michelle Obama had taken a special interest in national service, and notes from a March conference call of the Corporation’s board said that Mrs. Obama “will be playing a central role in the national service agenda.” Investigators also discovered that the First Lady had been “tasked with appointing the Corporation’s next Chief Executive Officer,” according to a report released last month by Grassley and Issa. In addition, on June 4, the White House announced that Norris was leaving the First Lady’s office to become a senior adviser at the Corporation. Taken together, those events prompted investigators to ask whether the First Lady’s office played any role in the Walpin affair.
But Solomont denied talking to Norris. Then, in November, White House visitor logs showed that Solomont had been to the White House 17 times between President Obama’s inauguration and the July 15 interview, and had met with Norris on three of those occasions, including June 9. In a follow-up interview conducted December 8, Republican investigators asked Solomont why he had not previously disclosed his meetings with Norris.
According to a number of sources, White House staff who accompanied Solomont objected to the question, accusing investigators of trying to create a “gotcha” situation. “Cutting short the questioning on this issue indicated an unusually defensive posture on the part of White House staff, including a lawyer from the Counsel’s office,” wrote Issa in the letter to Solomont. At that point, according to Issa, Solomont insisted he had mentioned his meetings with Norris during that first interview with investigators on July 15. The Republicans were flabbergasted. “This is simply false,” Issa wrote to Solomont. “The notes and recollections of multiple staff in the room at the time are clearly contrary to your recollection.” Finally, Solomont told investigators that he had discussed Corporation business, but not the Walpin matter, with Norris.
There are no transcripts or recordings of either session, but staff members on both sides took extensive notes.Republican investigators also want to know more about a series of events, some of them involving Norris, that occurred in the days leading up to Walpin’s firing. In his letter, Issa wrote that on June 4, the day Norris was appointed to her new job at the Corporation, “the White House was in the midst of deliberating action regarding Mr. Walpin.” The day before, June 3, Solomont sent an email to Eisen, the White House counsel’s office lawyer, discussing possible temporary replacements for Walpin, and also giving Eisen Walpin’s contact numbers, which on June 10 Eisen used to call Walpin and fire him. “In light of all this,” Issa wrote to Solomont, “it seems highly implausible that you would meet with Ms. Norris on June 9, 2009 and not discuss the IG. Yet, you claimed in your December 8, 2009 interview that you only discussed other [Corporation] business with her.”
The latest developments take place against the background of a continuing controversy over President Obama’s nomination of Solomont, a major Democratic donor, to be U.S. ambassador to Spain. In September, Grassley placed a hold on the nomination, saying he would block it until the Corporation provided documents Grassley had requested about the Walpin matter. As a result of Grassley’s hold, the Corporation recently released more documents — although not everything Grassley requested — and also made Solomont available for the December 8 interview. It is unlikely that any of that would have been done had Grassley not blocked the Solomont nomination.
On Saturday, Grassley announced that he was withdrawing the hold. “In order to obtain [the additional documents], I agreed to no longer object to proceeding to Mr. Solomont’s nomination,” Grassley said in a statement. “I have kept my word and informed leadership that I no longer intend to object.” Nevertheless, Grassley expressed serious concerns about the Walpin matter. Not only is the White House continuing to withhold dozens of documents, Grassley said, but “I remain concerned about the accuracy and completeness of Mr. Solomont’s answers to questions during both his July 15 and December 8, 2009 interviews.”
Shortly after Grassley lifted the hold, another senator placed a new hold on the Solomont nomination. For the moment at least, that senator remains anonymous.