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November 23, 2009

Documents: White House Scrambled for Pretext to Fire IG Walpin After Firing Him

They already had a reason to fire him. Trouble was, they couldn't admit that reason:

Walpin was looking into charges that AmeriCorps-paid volunteers ran personal errands for him, washed his car, and took part in political activities. In the course of investigating those allegations, the congressional report says, Walpin's investigators were told that [Obama ally and Sacramento Mayor Kevin] Johnson had made inappropriate advances toward three young women involved in the St. Hope program -- and that Johnson offered at least one of those young women money to keep quiet.

Johnson's office did not respond to calls for comment Friday morning.

At the time, Rhee [-- now Kevin Johnson's fiance! -- ] was on the board of St. Hope. A former St. Hope employee who reported one of the allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct by Johnson told Walpin's investigators that Rhee "learned of the allegations and played the role of a fixer, doing 'damage control,'" the congressional report says.

The employee told investigators that Rhee told her that "she was making this her number one priority, and she would take care of the situation." A short time later, the employee learned that the girl who had complained about Johnson had received a visit from Johnson's personal attorney.

The congressional report quotes the girl as saying the attorney "basically asked me to keep quiet," and Johnson offered her $1,000 a month for the duration of her time with St. Hope. Once investigators learned about that, the report says, they had "reasonable suspicions about potential hush money payments and witness tampering at a federally funded entity."

Rhee did not respond to calls for comment Friday.

So there's your damned reason.

But that's not a legal reason. In fact... it's kind of illegal.

No problem for the Chicago gangster:

The new documents show the White House scrambling, in the days after the controversy erupted, to put together a public explanation for the firing. On June 11, less than 24 hours after Walpin received the call from Eisen, the board held a conference call. The next day, Ranit Schmelzer, who is part of the corporation's press office, sent an email to board members giving them talking points to use if contacted by reporters seeking information about the matter.

"Indicate that you support the president's decision to remove IG Walpin," was Schmelzer's first instruction to the board. Then: "If asked why he was removed, indicate that the president lost confidence in Mr. Walpin." And then: "If the reporter continues to press, say that you can't get into details on a personnel matter, but you understand there were some performance-based issues." Finally, Schmelzer advised the board to avoid "getting into any specifics about IG Walpin's performance-based issues. The WH has stayed away from this and has counseled us to do the same."

The next day, June 13, after having instructed board members that the correct answer was to express support for the firing, the White House, for the first time, solicited the members' actual views on the matter. In an email to the board headlined "Time-sensitive request from White House Counsel re IG matter," corporation general counsel Frank Trinity wrote, "I was just contacted by Elana Tyrangiel, Associate Counsel to the President, seeking your assistance in responding to questions from members of Congress about President Obama's removal of Gerald Walpin as inspector general. Specifically, the White House Counsel's office would like to compile statements from board members and CNCS staff who were present at the inspector general's presentation to the board immediately before the public board meeting last month." Trinity said each member would receive a call from White House lawyer Tyrangiel, who "will prepare statements for your review for accuracy."

The mention of Walpin's "presentation to the board" was a reference to a May 20 board meeting that played a key part in the White House's evolving explanations for Walpin's firing. After initially explaining that President Obama no longer had the "fullest confidence" in Walpin, the White House later changed its story to say that Walpin, who was 77 years old at the time, had become "confused, disoriented [and] unable to answer questions" at the May 20 meeting. Later, the White House cited other "performance-based" issues. But Republican investigators concluded that the key motive behind the firing was unhappiness with Walpin's aggressive investigation of misuse of AmeriCorps funds by Kevin Johnson, the mayor of Sacramento, California who is a prominent political ally of President Obama.

Obama's buddy used AmeriCorps funds to pay hush-money to young girls he'd either propositioned or had sex with.

And because Walpin wanted to investigate that, rather than cover it up, he was deemed "senile."


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posted by Ace at 06:41 PM

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