The official at the center of the Internal Revenue Service tea party scandal once dismissed complaints that labor unions were not reporting millions of dollars in political activities on their tax forms, according to an email obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation.
In 2007, Lerner responded directly to a complaint that some major labor unions reported completely different amounts of political expenditures when filing with the IRS and the Department of Labor.
At the time of the email, Lerner was the Director of Exempt Organizations at the IRS.
Lerner wrote, “We looked at the information you provided regarding organizations that report substantial amounts of political activity and lobbying expenditures on the DOL Form LM-2, but report little to no political expenditures on the Form 990 filed with the IRS.”
“We believe this difference in reporting does not necessarily indicate that the organization has incorrectly reported to either the DOL or the IRS,” Lerner concluded.
Don Todd, the deputy assistant secretary of the Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS) at the time the email was sent, confirmed seeing Lerner’s email and remembering similar complaints at the time. OLMS oversees labor union financial disclosures within the Department of Labor.
“The laws never been enforced,” Todd told TheDCNF. “The IRS was telling us it would cost more to enforce the law then they would collect.”
In 2006, the year leading up to Lerner’s email, the national headquarters for the AFL-CIO reported no direct or indirect political expenditures with the IRS on their 990 form, leaving the line 81a blank. That same year, the AFL-CIO reported $29,585,661 in political activities with the Department of Labor.
Also in 2006 the Teamsters Union reported no political expenditures with the IRS while at the same time reporting $7,081,965 with the Labor Department.
Again in 2006, Unite-Here reported no political activity with the IRS and $1,451,002 with the Labor Department.
In 2005, the National Education Association also reported no political expenditures with the IRS while at the same time reporting $24,985,250 with the Labor Department.
Labor union political spending overwhelmingly benefits Democrats. Todd told TheDNCF Lerner may have been playing favorites. Lerner has been accused of singling out tea party groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Lerner acknowledged in the 2007 email, “The definition of political campaign activity required to be reported on Form LM2 coincides with the definition of political campaign activity expenditures required to be reported on Form 990.”
But she did offer some possible reasons for the discrepancies. “The Form LM-2 does not separate this reporting from the reporting of lobbying expenditures,” she wrote. “Furthermore, even if section 501(c)(5) labor organizations were required to report their lobbying expenditures, the amount required to be reported on Form LM-2 includes activity, such as attempting to influence regulations, that is not required to be reported as lobbying, as the IRS limitations apply to legislative lobbying.”
Lerner conceded, “Having said that, we did see some instances that raised concerns and we referred that information to our Dallas office to determine whether examination is warranted.” It does not appear any further investigation was conducted.
The Bush administration mandated more detailed disclosure requirements for labor unions, but they were relaxed by the Obama administration’s Labor Department.
An IRS spokesman told TheDCNF the agency had no “immediate comment” on the matter.
It’s not just the Tea Party that the IRS is giving extra scrutiny to, it’s also checking into church sermons. According to Investor’s Business Daily, the IRS agreed to an atheist group’s demands “to monitor sermons and homilies for proscribed speech that the foundation believes includes things like condemnation of gay marriage and criticism of ObamaCare for its contraceptive mandate.”
The division in charge of enforcing this review of religious speech, the Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division, was once headed by IRS scandal figure Lois Lerner. So far the Big Three (ABC, CBS, NBC) networks have yet to run with this stunning story on any of their evening or morning news programs.
On July 31, Investor’s Business Daily (IBD) opened their editorial headlined “IRS Strikes Deal With Atheists To Monitor Churches,” this way:
First Amendment: Government’s assault on religious liberty has hit a new low as the IRS settles with atheists by promising to monitor sermons for mentions of the right to life and traditional marriage.
A lawsuit filed by the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) asserted that the Internal Revenue Service ignored complaints about churches’ violating their tax-exempt status by routinely promoting political issues, legislation and candidates from the pulpit.
The FFRF has temporarily withdrawn its suit in return for the IRS’s agreement to monitor sermons and homilies for proscribed speech that the foundation believes includes things like condemnation of gay marriage and criticism of ObamaCare for its contraceptive mandate.
The irony of this agreement is that it’s being enforced by the same Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division of the IRS that was once headed by Lois “Fifth Amendment” Lerner and that openly targeted Tea Party and other conservative groups.
Among the questions that the IRS asked of those targeted groups was the content of their prayers.
Those who objected to the monitoring of what is said and done in mosques for signs of terrorist activity have no problem with this one, though monitoring what’s said in houses of worship is a clear violation of the First Amendment. Can you say “chilling effect”?
Congress can make no laws prohibiting the free exercise of religion. So it’s not clear where the IRS gets off doing just that by spying on religious leaders lest they comment on issues and activities by government that are contrary to or impose on their religious consciences. Our country was founded by people fleeing this kind of government-monitored and mandated theology last practiced in the Soviet Union.
The Federal Election Commission recycled the computer hard drive of April Sands – a former co-worker of Lois Lerner’s – hindering an investigation into Sands’ partisan political activities, according to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
Sands resigned from the Federal Election Commission in April after she admitted to violating the Hatch Act, which bars executive branch employees from engaging in partisan political activities on federal time and at federal facilities.
The twist is that Sands also worked under Lois Lerner when the ex-IRS agent – who is currently embroiled in a scandal over the targeting of conservative political groups – worked at the FEC’s enforcement division.
In a letter to FEC chairman Lee Goodman, committee chairman Darrell Issa and committee member Jim Jordan laid out Sands’ partisan activities and asked for records pertaining to the recycling of her hard drive and of the agency’s records retention policies.
Sands took part in a heavily partisan online webcam discussion from FEC offices and also operated a Twitter account with the handle @ReignOfApril which were sent during Sands’ normal working hours.
One of Sands’ tweets, from June 4, 2012 read “I just don’t understand how anyone but straight white men can vote Republican. What kind of delusional rhetorical [sic] does one use?”
Sands is a black female.
“Dear every single Republican ever, When will U learn that Barack Hussein Obama is simply smarter than U? Stand down, Signed #Obama2012 #p2,” Sands wrote on May 1, 2012.
In a message from Aug. 25, 2012, Sands called Republicans her “enemy.”
In others, Sands issued fundraising pleas on behalf of Obama. “Our #POTUS’s birthday is August 4. He’ll be 51. I’m donating $51 to give him the best birthday present ever: a second term,” she wrote on July 18, 2012.
“The bias in these messages is striking, especially for an attorney charged with the responsibility to enforce federal election laws fairly and dispassionately,” read the committee’s letter to Goodman, an Obama appointee.
The FEC’s Office of Inspector General sought to conduct a criminal investigation into Sands’ activities but were stymied when they found that the agency had recycled her computer hard drive.
“Therefore the OIG was unable to show that Ms. Sands’ solicitations and political activity were done from an FEC computer,” reads the letter.
Because of this, the U.S. attorney’s office for the District of Columbia declined criminal prosecution.
“The FEC’s failure to retain Ms. Sands’ hard drive prevented the FEC OIG from fully pursuing appropriate criminal sanctions for Ms. Sands’ admitted violation of federal law,” wrote Issa and Jordan.
“Like the IRS’s destruction of Lois Lerner’s hard drive, the FEC’s recycling of Ms. Sands’ hard drive may have also destroyed material responsive to Freedom of Information Act and congressional oversight requests,” the letter continued.
Lerner’s computer hard drive crashed in the middle of 2011, right around the time that questions were being raised over whether the IRS’s enforcement agency was targeting conservative non-profit groups while considering whether to grant them tax-exempt status.
News of the loss of Lerner’s emails was only made public last month, much to the frustration of Issa and the Oversight Committee.
Though it is unclear whether Sands and Lerner communicated after Lerner’s move to the FEC, the Oversight Committee letter points out that Lerner was known to have communicated with other FEC employees after her switch. That correspondence included the sharing of information protected by section 6103 of the tax code, the letter notes.
U.S. District Court Judge Rudolph Randa has put an end to a political witch hunt by local Wisconsin prosecutors that featured a secret investigation more reminiscent of a banana republic than the world’s foremost democracy. In two orders – one of which termed the prosecutors’ appeal of his decision as “frivolous” – Randa ordered local prosecutors to “cease all activities related to the investigation” and to return all of the records and documents they had seized from dozens of conservative advocacy organizations.
Judge Randa concluded that local prosecutors, led by Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, a Democrat, were attempting to criminalize the political speech of about 30 conservative organizations, including Wisconsin Club for Growth. These prosecutors had instigated “a secret John Doe investigation replete with armed raids on homes to collect evidence.” The prosecutors were upset apparently over the organizations’ support of legislation pushed by Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, to limit the collective bargaining rights of public employees. They claimed it was a criminal violation for independent organizations to engage in political speech and political advocacy in support of Gov. Walker’s proposed legislation. Judge Randa ruled the prosecutors had a “long-running investigation of all things Walker-related.”
Judge Randa’s description of the appalling tactics used by the prosecutors is shocking. The head of WCG, Eric O’Keefe, as well as his advisors and employees, were treated like members of a drug cartel. Armed officers conducted raids in the early morning hours, with sheriff deputy vehicles using “bright floodlights to illuminate” the activists’ homes. Deputies executed search warrants “seizing business papers, computer equipment, phones, and other devices, while their targets were restrained under police supervision and denied the ability to contact their attorneys,” the judge wrote. Just as bad, O’Keefe and the other targets of the investigation also were served with subpoenas that included a “Secrecy Order” telling them they could not reveal anything about the investigation or the seizure of their property and records “under penalty of perjury.”
According to Judge Randa, the list of advocacy groups subpoenaed by the prosecutors “indicates that all or nearly all right-of-center groups and individuals in Wisconsin who engaged in issue advocacy from 2010 to the present are targets of the investigation.” And yet because of the Secrecy Order, the victims of this prosecutorial abuse were unable to exercise their right to complain in public about an offensive investigation and obnoxious police tactics aimed at restricting their First Amendment rights to speak about important public policy issues.
Judge Randa said the prosecutors’ interpretation of the law was “simply wrong”:
“The defendants are pursuing criminal charges through a secret John Doe investigation against the plaintiffs for exercising issue advocacy speech rights that on their face are not subject to the regulations or statutes the defendants seek to enforce.”
Randa’s condemnation of the Wisconsin prosecutors was stinging. He said he was “left to wonder” if the prosecutors had “actually read the complaint” O’Keefe filed against them. He had “no idea why the defendants even attempted to raise” some of their defenses and characterized them as “the height of frivolousness.” Most importantly, the judge held that the prosecutors were not entitled to immunity from civil liability because they had acted without probable cause.
This means that not only has the judge put a halt to the criminal investigation being conducted by the prosecutors, but the lawsuit filed by O’Keefe against the prosecutors for violating his civil rights will go forward. The judgment could be substantial. O’Keefe said his organization lost $2 million as a result of the investigation, which “devastated” its ability to advocate for Walker’s reforms.
The use of the tremendous power given to law enforcement officials to target political speech they do not like is one of the greatest threats to our liberty and freedom of speech. Although the tactics these prosecutors used have now been rebuked in court, voters should remember this shameful behavior. And the Wisconsin legislature should immediately act to rid of the state of a statute that allows Star Chamber proceedings that impinge upon our cherished First Amendment rights.
Tom Delay has finally had his day in court and has been acquitted on all charges. It’s taken forever but the left’s goal to destroy him has finally been arrested:
KVUE – A Texas Court of Appeals in Austin has overturned the conviction of former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, attorney Brian Wice told KVUE sister station KHOU 11 News.
DeLay, 66, was convicted in 2010 for his alleged role in a scheme to influence Texas elections.
He was found guilty of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering after he was accused of helping funnel corporate money to Texas candidates in 2002.
In documents released early Thursday, however, an appeals court said the evidence in the case was “legally insufficient to sustain DeLay’s convictions.”
The court said all judgments against DeLay were reversed, and the former congressman was formally acquitted.
For both DeLay and his critics, the process was frustratingly slow, due in part to some of the appeals court justices in Austin recusing themselves as well as DeLay’s successful effort to have a judge on the panel removed because of anti-Republican comments she made.
DeLay was sentenced to three years in prison, but he stayed free while his case made its way through the appellate process.
A Democratic congressman railed against a “right-wing conspiracy” of outside campaign spending and said that voter ID laws could have prevented Barack Obama’s presidency during a 2012 event in which the IRS coached black ministers in how to engage in campaign activity.
The Daily Caller reported Friday on a May 30, 2012 meeting at the U.S. Capitol between the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and the Conference of National Black Churches. The meeting was attended by Attorney General Eric Holder, then-IRS commissioner Douglas Shulman, and IRS official Peter Lorenzetti, all of whom spoke at the event. The meeting, which was held during the presidential campaign and at a time when the IRS was targeting conservative non-profits for abusive audits, aimed to coach black ministers in how to engage in political activity without violating the law.
“We’re going to, first of all, equip them with the information they need to know about what they can say and what they cannot say in the church that would violate their 501(c)(3) status with the IRS,” said CBC chairman Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, a Missouri Democrat.
This helpful training session for black ministers was convened while Shulman’s IRS was improperly scrutinizing the tax-exempt status of conservative and tea party groups and delaying conservative groups’ tax-exempt applications with costly investigations.
Rep. G.K. Butterfield, a Democrat from North Carolina and member of the CBC, used openly partisan rhetoric in his remarks before the convened black ministers, discussing a “right-wing conspiracy” and condemning voter ID laws that he claimed could have jeopardized Obama’s election to the White House.
“But now, all of this progress that we’ve made is under assault. There is a right-wing conspiracy that is alive and well in this country that is trying to take us back to 1900 and even before,” Butterfield said in his remarks.
“They are coming in very discreet ways. Uh, the Citizens United case for example that now allows corporations to give unlimited amounts of money, anonymous unlimited amounts of money, in support or opposition to political candidates, and it’s working. And there are other devices at play and our panelists today are going to talk with you about that and to alert you and to inform you and to empower you to go back to your communities and to be vocal on this subject and to make a difference,” Butterfield said, referring to panelists including Holder and Shulman.
“What they want to do is not take away the right to vote, but if black voter participation can be diminished even by ten percent it will make that critical difference all across the country. President Obama won my state in the last election by 14,000 votes. Had we had a voter ID law in North Carolina he would not have won the state of North Carolina and probably could not have won the presidency,” Butterfield said.
Butterfield had lots of helpful advice for black ministers looking to get politically involved.
“You are permitted to endorse a candidate in your individual capacity as a citizen. You can appear on a program away from the church and be presented as the pastor of Zion Baptist Church or Richard Allen AME church. You can do that, and without violating IRS regulations,” Butterfield said, later encouraging ministers to get involved in “non-partisan voter registration” by sending people to knock on doors and stand on street corners.
Obama won 93 percent of the black vote in the 2012 election, according to exit polling.
“Let me just thank the Internal Revenue Service for their willingness to come today to have this conversation with us. They didn’t have to come today,” Butterfield said.
Holder’s keynote speech, meanwhile, was sharply critical of recent state-level voting law changes, saying there’s reason to believe that “some of the achievements that defined the civil rights movement now hang again in the balance.”
“[The CBC] had the IRS members there specifically to advise them on how far to go campaigning without violating their tax-exempt status,” George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley told TheDC. “I viewed the meeting as highly problematic.”
“Any questions you have regarding Attorney General Holder’s and Commissioner Shulman’s participation should be directed to their respective offices,” a spokesperson for Rep. Butterfield told TheDC.
The IRS and DOJ did not return repeated requests for comment.
It’s no wonder that Lois Lerner wants immunity in exchange for her testimony. After all, people that have done nothing wrong, don’t need immunity. That being said, a video of Lerner from 2010 seems to shed a little more light on the reason why she and others in the IRS targeted the Tea Party.
Newly uncovered video shows Lois Lerner discussing the political pressure that swirled around the IRS in 2010. Lerner says “everyone” was “screaming at” the IRS to stop the flood of money pouring into the 2010 elections through 501(c)(4) groups as a result of Citizens United.
Lerner spoke to a small group at Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy on October 19, 2010, just two weeks before the wave election that brought the Tea Party and Republicans significant gains in Congress. During her appearance Lerner was asked about the flow of money from corporations to 501(c)(4) groups. “Everyone is up in arms because they don’t like it” Lerner replied, adding “Federal Election Commission can’t do anything about it; they want the IRS to fix the problem.”
Lerner goes on to outline the fact that 501(c)(4) organizations have the right to do “an ad that says vote for Joe Blow” so long as their primary activity is social welfare. However Lerner again emphasizes the political pressure the IRS was under at the time saying, “So everybody is screaming at us right now ‘Fix it now before the election. Can’t you see how much these people are spending?’” Lerner concludes by saying she won’t know if organizations have gone too far in campaigning until she looks at their “990s next year.”
Here’s the video:
Let’s go over the timeline here:
* January 21, 2010: The SCOTUS hands down the Citizens United ruling.
* October 19, 2010: Lois Lerner is on tape describing the intense amount of pressure put on the IRS by the Federal Elections Commission and others to “fix the problem” of private, non-profit companies donating to candidates and elections.
* November 2nd, 2010: The 2010 midterm elections bring historic gains for the GOP, around 700 seats nationwide.
Look, let’s not kid ourselves. The Democrats took a shellacking in the 2010 midterms because of the passage of Obamacare. Sure, there may have been other factors at play but that’s the big one. To blame the midterms on Citizens United is just plain silly. And while the leftists at the IRS had already been targeting conservative groups based solely on their ideology since well before Citizens United, the fact remains that, in their minds, Citizens United was the culprit. And after the huge 2010 midterm losses, something had to be done.
I believe that’s what detectives call a “motive.”
IRS employees were ordered by their superiors – including Lois Lerner who pleaded the 5th Amendment against self-incrimination rather than testify in Congress – to send certain Tea Party tax-exemption applications to the office of the IRS’s Chief Counsel, which was headed by William Wilkins, who at that time was the only Obama political appointee at the IRS, according to a letter released today by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
“As a part of this ongoing investigation, the Committees have learned that the IRS Chief Counsel’s office in Washington, D.C. has been closely involved in some of the applications,” reads a letter released today by the House committees on Oversight and Government and Ways and Means. “Its involvement and demands for information about political activity during the 2010 election cycle appear to have caused systematic delays in the processing of Tea Party applications.”
It further states, “[B]ased on his decades of experience, [career IRS official Carter Hull] determined he had enough facts to make recommendations whether to approve or deny the applications… However, Mr. Hull’s recommendations were not carried out. Instead, according to Michael Seto, the head of Mr. Hull’s unit in Washington, Lois Lerner instructed that the Tea Party applications go through a multi-layer review that included her senior advisor and the Chief Counsel’s office.”
Wilkins, the IRS chief counsel, had been appointed by President Obama to his position in 2009, and was one of only two politically appointed officials at the IRS. The other employee was IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman, a Bush appointee. Shulman was commissioner from March 2008 to November 2012. He was followed Steve Miller, who was appointed acting commissioner by Obama and served until May 2013. The current acting commissioner is Daniel Werfel, appointed by Obama in May.
The nine-page letter was sent to IRS Principal Deputy Commissioner Daniel Werfel and was signed by House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrel Issa (R-Calif.), Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.), Regulatory Affairs Subcommittee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Way and Means Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Charles Boustany Jr. (R-La.).
IRS official Lois Lerner is sworn in on Capitol Hill on May 22, 2013, before a House Oversight Committee hearing, where she pleaded the 5th Amendment against self-incrimination. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
The letter is based upon interviews by the Committees of several long-term IRS employees, including Carter Hull, a tax-law specialist and 501c(4) expert with 48 years of experience at the IRS, according to the letter. From his interview, “the Committees were informed that Tea Party applications under his review were, in an unusual turn of events, referred to the Chief Counsel’s office for further review at the direction of Lois Lerner, the head of the Exempt Organizations division. The IRS Chief Counsel is one of two politically appointed officials in the agency.”
Hull is scheduled to testify before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Thursday, July 18, along with several other IRS employees cited in today’s letter.
Back in April 2010, according to the letter, Hull was instructed by his superiors to analyze several Tea Party tax-exemption applications as “test” cases to determine the best way for the IRS, as Hull explained, to “approach these organizations, and how [the IRS] should handle them.”
Hull sent development letters to the Tea Party groups requesting additional information, gathered and analyzed the data, and then concluded he had enough facts to make a decision on whether the groups had engaged in a permissible amount of political activity.
“However, Mr. Hull’s recommendations were not carried,” states the letter. Instead, as the head of Hull’s unit in Washington, D.C., Michael Seto, related, Lois Lerner “sent me an email saying that when these cases need to go through multi-tire review and they will eventually have to go [through her staff] and the chief counsel’s office.”
……………IRS Chief Counsel William Wilkens. (Photo: IRS)
Hull also told the committees that Lerner’s senior adviser instructed him in the winter of 2010-2011 that the IRS Chief Counsel’s office would have to review the applications. Hull stated this was the first time in his career he had been told to send applications to Lerner’s senior adviser. As the committee reported:
Q: “Have you ever sent a case to [the senior adviser to Ms. Lerner] before?”
Hull: “Not to my knowledge.”
Q: “This is the only case you remember?”
Hull: “This is the only case I remember sending directly to [ the senior adviser to Ms. Lerner].”
Q: “Did [the senior adviser to Ms. Lerner] indicate to you whether she agreed with your recommendations?”
Hull: “She did not say whether she agreed or not. She said it should go through the Chief Counsel.”
Q: “The IRS Chief Counsel?”
Hull: “The IRS Chief Counsel.”
The letter from the Committees to Werfel goes on to state that after a “substantial delay,” the Chief Counsel’s office finally met with Hull, with Lerner’s senior adviser, and with other Washington officials “to discuss these test case applications.”
………….Acting IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel (AP Photo)
“During the intervening months, these applications lingered,” states the letter. Three years after Hull had been instructed to review the Tea Party applications, he told the Committees that he did not know whether those applications were still open or closed.
Hull’s superviser, Ronald Shoemaker, also was interviewed by the Committees. He stated that from that August 2011 meeting, the Chief Counsel’s office was still seeking more information about the Tea Party applicants’ political activities, specifically activities “leading up to the 2010 election.”
In that election, the Democrats lost control of the House of Representatives and a Republican, John Boehner of Ohio, became the new Speaker.
As Shoemaker recounted to the Committees’ staff, the Chief Counsel’s office “indicated that they wanted more development of possible political activity or political intervention right before the election period; that that had not occurred and that that’s what was missing… [R]ight before the election period. In other words, immediately before.”
The letter to Werfel says, “the lengthy and unusual review of the test applications in Washington created a bottleneck and caused the delay of other Tea Party applications in Cincinnati. Indeed, multiple IRS employees in Cincinnati have told the Committee they were waiting on guidance from Washington on how to move the applications forward.”
Cindy Thomas, head of the IRS Cincinnati office, repeatedly asked officials in Washington, D.C. for guidance on the applications but did not receive definitive responses.
As the Committees’ interview reports:
Q: “So the cases that [Cincinnati employee] was working from October 2010 through September 2011 were still in kind of a holding pattern awaiting guidance from Washington? Is that right?”
Thomas: “That’s correct.”
Q: “And were there additional applications that were coming at this time?”
Thomas: “To my knowledge, yes.”
Q: “And those were also in a holding pattern?”
Thomas: “that’s correct.”
Q: “Pending guidance from Washington?”
Thomas: “That’s correct.”
In conclusion, the letter from the Committees to the IRS’s Werfel requests further documents and communications between or among employees of the IRS’s Chief Counsel’s office, the Treasury Department’s General Counsel’s office, and the Executive Office of the President between Feb. 1, 2010 and the present concerning all tax-exempt applications.
The demonstrations that began Sunday in Cairo, Egypt against the Muslim Brotherhood government of President Mohamed Morsi have attracted “millions” of supporters and many counter-demonstrators as well, making the protest the largest political event in the history of the world, according to the BBC.
The protests in Tahrir Square and throughout Egypt exceed those that ousted President Hosni Mubarak in 2011 in the key event of the Arab Spring. Two years later, after constitutional reforms and elections that saw Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood move to aggrandize their power, the public backlash is immense.
The demonstrations pose a puzzle for President Barack Obama, who was touring South Africa at the other end of the continent when the demonstrations began. In 2011, Obama initially supported Mubarak, then threw his weight behind the protests and reached out to the Muslim Brotherhood on its way to power.
The Obama administration, through Ambassador Anne Patterson, actively discouraged Sunday’s protests, as Breitbart News’ Kerry Picket reported last week. “Egypt needs stability to get its economic house in order, and more violence on the streets will do little more than add new names to the lists of martyrs,” she said.
Delivering an address at the University of Cape Town on Sunday night that was billed as the highlight of his three-nation tour, Obama touted Africa’s movement towards democracy but did not mention the Cairo protests, and downplayed the U.S. intervention in Libya and the chaos that followed in its wake.
The Tahrir Square protests in Cairo bear echoes of recent protests in Turkey, as well as the “Cedar Revolution” that took place in Lebanon in 2005, and the “Green Revolution” of Iran in 2009, when citizens took to the streets to protest economic stagnation, religious oppression, and costly foreign entanglements.
Yet if the Cedar Revolution was partly inspired by the toppling of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and the Green Revolution was partly inspired both by Iraq and the end of the Taliban regime in neighboring Afghanistan, the new protests in Cairo and Istanbul seem endogenous, fueled by popular discontent at Islamist rule.
There are counter-demonstrations in Egypt, too, as Muslim Brotherhood activists have been able to mobilize thousands of their own followers in protests of support for Morsi. The Egyptian army, which may hold the balance of power, has yet to intervene–but could do so in an attempt to restore stability.
Protesters stormed and ransacked the Cairo headquarters of President Mohammed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood group early Monday, in an attack that could spark more violence as demonstrators gear up for a second day of mass rallies aimed at forcing the Islamist leader from power.
Organizers of the protests, meanwhile, gave Morsi until 5 p.m. on Tuesday to step down and called on the police and the military to clearly state their support for what the protest movement called the popular will.
Sunday saw millions of Egyptians flood the streets nationwide in a massive outpouring of anger and frustration with the president and the Brotherhood, the Islamist group that propelled Morsi to power. The protests were largely peaceful, although in a sign of the volatility of the country’s divisions, clashes erupted in the evening around the Brotherhood’s Cairo headquarters between armed Morsi supporters barricaded inside the building and young protesters pelting it with firebombs and rocks.
After clashes raged overnight, protesters managed to breach the compound’s defenses and storm the six-story building early Monday, carting off furniture, files, rugs, blankets, air conditioning units and portraits of Morsi, according to an Associated Press journalist at the scene. One protester emerged with a pistol and handed it over to a policeman outside.
Footage on local TV networks showed smashed windows, blackened walls and smoke billowing out of the fortified villa in the Muqatam district in eastern Cairo. A fire was still raging on one floor hours after the building was stormed. One protester tore down the Muslim Brotherhood sign from the building’s front wall, while another hoisted Egypt’s red, black and white flag out an upper-story window and waved it in the air in triumph.
Health Ministry spokesman Yehya Moussa told state television that at least 16 people nationwide have been killed in violence related to the protests since Sunday, eight of them at the Brotherhood’s headquarters. A total of 781 people have been injured, he added.
It was not immediately clear whether the Brotherhood supporters holed up inside who had been battling the protesters late Sunday fled the building overnight.
Morsi’s critics view the Brotherhood headquarters as the seat of real power in Egypt, consistently claiming that the Islamist group’s spiritual leader, Mohammed Badie and his powerful deputy, Khairat el-Shater, were the ones actually calling the shots in the country, not the president.
The Brotherhood has in recent weeks fortified the building’s walls in anticipation of the massive opposition protests in which millions took part on Sunday in a display of anger and frustration with the Islamist leader on the anniversary of his inauguration.
On Monday, anti-Morsi protesters were gearing up for a second day of demonstrations.
Some protesters spent the night in dozens of tents pitched in the capital’s central Tahrir Square and in front of the president’s Ittihadiya Palace. They have vowed to stay there until Morsi resigns. The president’s supporters, meanwhile, continued their sit-in in front of a major mosque in another part of Cairo.
The anti-Morsi demonstrators are calling for widespread labor strikes in an attempt to ratchet up the pressure on the president, but it was not immediately clear whether unions would respond to the call. Organizers are also calling for sit-ins at the Cabinet building, interim parliament, and another presidential place where Morsi has been working since late last week.
Sunday’s protests were the largest seen in Egypt in the 2 1/2 years of turmoil since the ouster of autocrat Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.
Fears were widespread that the collisions between the two sides could grow more violent in coming days. Morsi made clear through a spokesman that he would not step down and his Islamist supporters vowed not to allow protesters to remove one of their own, brought to office in a vote deemed free and fair.
During the day Sunday, thousands of Islamists massed not far from the presidential palace in support of Morsi, some of them prepared for a fight with makeshift armor, sticks and shields.
The anti-Morsi protesters aimed to show by sheer numbers that the country has irrevocably turned against him, a year to the day after he was inaugurated as Egypt’s first freely elected president. But throughout the day and even up to midnight at the main rallying sites, fears of rampant violence did not materialize.
Instead the mood was largely festive as protesters at giant anti-Morsi rallies in Tahrir and outside the Ittihadiya palace spilled into side streets and across boulevards, waving flags, blowing whistles and chanting.
Fireworks went off overhead. Men and women, some with small children on their shoulders, beat drums, danced and sang, “By hook or by crook, we will bring Morsi down.” Residents in nearby homes showered water on marchers below – some carrying tents in preparation to camp outside the palace – to cool them in the summer heat, and blew whistles and waved flags in support.
“Mubarak took only 18 days although he had behind him the security, intelligence and a large sector of Egyptians,” said Amr Tawfeeq, an oil company employee marching toward Ittihadiya with a Christian friend. Morsi “won’t take long. We want him out and we are ready to pay the price.”
The massive outpouring against Morsi raises the question of what comes next. Protesters have vowed to stay on the streets until he steps down. The president, in turn, appears to be hoping protests wane.
For weeks, Morsi’s supporters have depicted the planned protest as a plot by Mubarak loyalists. But their claims were undermined by the extent of Sunday’s rallies. In Cairo and a string of cities in the Nile Delta and on the Mediterranean coast, the protests topped even the biggest protests of the 2011′s 18-day uprising, including the day Mubarak quit, Feb. 11, when giant crowds marched on Ittihadiya.
It is unclear now whether the opposition, which for months has demanded Morsi form a national unity government, would now accept any concessions short of his removal. The anticipated deadlock raises the question of whether the army, already deployed on the outskirts of cities, will intervene. Protesters believe the military would throw its weight behind them, tipping the balance against Morsi.
The country’s police, meanwhile, were hardly to be seen Sunday. In the lead-up to Sunday, some officers angrily told their commanders they would not protect the Brotherhood from protesters, complaining that police are always caught in the middle, according to video of the meeting released online.
“If the Brothers think that we will give up and leave, they are mistaken,” said lawyer Hossam Muhareb as he sat with a friend on a sidewalk near the presidential palace. “They will give up and leave after seeing our numbers.”
The Egyptian army threatened Monday to take over power if political forces failed to reach consensus over the future of the country.
A spokesperson for the General Command of the Armed Forces, speaking in an audio statement broadcast by state television, gave all political groups in Egypt a 48-hour grace period to respond to the demands of the people.
The army reiterated its “call that the demands of the people be met and gives [all parties] 48 hours, as a last chance, to take responsibility for the historic circumstances the country is going through,” the statement, read out on television, said.
“If the demands of the people are not met in this period…[the army] will announce a future roadmap and measures to oversee its implementation.”
The statement praised Sunday’s protests against the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood and President Mohamed Morsy.
On June 23, Defence Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said that the moral responsibility of the army towards the people compels it to intervene and prevent the country from sliding into a dark tunnel of conflict, internal strife, criminality and treason.
This responsibility demanded the army save Egypt from the possibility of becoming a failed state.
He has also called on all political forces to reach a formula of understanding and genuine reconciliation to protect Egypt and its people.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the last-minute fiscal cliff deal reached by congressional leaders and President Barack Obama cuts only $15 billion in spending while increasing tax revenues by $620 billion – a 41:1 ratio of tax increases to spending cuts.
When Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush increased taxes in return for spending cuts – cuts that never ultimately came – they did so at ratios of 1:3 and 1:2.
“In 1982, President Reagan was promised $3 in spending cuts for every $1 in tax hikes,” Americans for Tax Reform says of those two incidents. “The tax hikes went through, but the spending cuts did not materialize. President Reagan later said that signing onto this deal was the biggest mistake of his presidency.
“In 1990, President George H.W. Bush agreed to $2 in spending cuts for every $1 in tax hikes. The tax hikes went through, and we are still paying them today. Not a single penny of the promised spending cuts actually happened.”
American Majority Action spokesman Ron Meyer told Breitbart News late Tuesday that enough House Republicans have banded together in an effort to unseat House Speaker John Boehner from his position – they just need a leader to take up the mantle.
“At least 20 House Republican members have gotten together, discussed this and want to unseat Speaker Boehner – and are willing to do what it takes to do it,” Meyer said. “That’s more than enough to get the job done, but the one problem these guys face is they need a leader to coalesce behind.”
Meyer said the conservatives have considered House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) to take the helm after Boehner is knocked out. His opposition from the right to the Senate fiscal cliff deal that Vice President Joe Biden cut with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is a sign Cantor may try for the job.
AMA is hardly the only conservative entity aware of the rekindled effort afoot to unseat Boehner. Another conservative with inside knowledge of the effort told Breitbart News that the movement has “new focus and juice,” and if enough members go to Boehner telling him they won’t support his re-election, that Americans should “watch for him to resign gracefully.”
The vote for Boehner’s re-election as Speaker happens on Thursday, two days after Boehner’s decision to support the Senate “fiscal cliff” deal Vice President Joe Biden cut with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on New Year’s Eve.