Americas

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Obama pledges action to tackle wave of scandals

Raf Sanchez Washington

Published 17/05/2013|04:24

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Barack Obama

US President Barack Obama has attempted to reassert his authority by promising the American people that he is taking swift action to address a trio of political scandals that have hit the White House.

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Mr Obama said yesterday that he was confident that multiple investigations under way into tax officials who inappropriately targeted conservative groups for extra scrutiny would "figure out exactly what happened" and "who was involved".

A day after sacking the head of the Inland Revenue Service (IRS), Mr Obama, pictured, signalled that he would resist Republican calls to appoint a special prosecutor to look into an affair that has led to accusation of Nixonian political tactics.

"I promise you this," the president said in a rain-soaked press conference outside the White House. "The minute I found out about [the IRS scandal], then my main focus is making sure that we get the thing fixed."

Turning to allegations that the justice department had violated press freedom by secretly monitoring reporters' phone lines, the president said he had "complete confidence" in his attorney general, Eric Holder.

Media

He acknowledged the role of the media in a democracy and said he would support a "shield law" that would offer some legal protection for journalists being asked to disclose confidential sources.

Mr Obama also addressed criticism of the handling of last year's Benghazi consulate attack, calling for increased security at US diplomatic posts and for changes to allow the military to respond "lightning quick" to future assaults.

Hours earlier, his administration released 100 pages of emails designed to refute allegations that the White House deliberately misled the public over the deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

Even as the president attempted to draw a line under the most politically difficult week of his second term, a fresh national security scandal was emerging.

A watchdog report found that the US government had lost track of "two known or suspected terrorists" who had been given new identities under the witness-protection programme.

One of the individuals is known to have left the US and the other is believed to have done so, raising questions that emerged after the Boston Marathon bombings over how law enforcement tracks extremists.

Republicans made clear they would continue to use the IRS scandal to attack the White House and demanded that Steven Miller, the ousted head of the agency, testify before Congress today.

"We're going to reign in this culture of rot and abuse," said Representative Charles Boustany. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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