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Author: Mandy Nagy

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Mandy Nagy

Mandy Nagy (aka "Liberty Chick") was an investigative writer and researcher. She primarily covered the institutional left, protest movements, hacking and cybercrime, and technology. After suffering a serious stroke in September 2014, Mandy no longer was able to work at Legal Insurrection, but she's always on our minds and in our hearts. For more information, see here.

By now you've seen Monday's Supreme Court decisions here and here, which - quite predictably - set off a nuclear reaction on Twitter. Some of that outrage was misguidedly directed at SCOTUSblog by angry tweeters who thought they were surely tweeting the actual Supreme Court Justices. But as many of us know, and others have also pointed out, SCOTUSblog Is Not the Supreme Court. I never realized that the serious minds at SCOTUSblog had such a sense of humor, which was on full display in how they handled the barrage of hate wrongly dumped into their timeline. You must go visit SCOTUSblog's Twitter timeline to see all of their responses, but a handful of them are featured below. Well played SCOTUSblog, well played. scotusblog-tweet6 scotusblog-tweet5

President Obama is expected to announce former CEO of Procter & Gamble Bob McDonald as his pick to head the Department of Veterans Affairs. From Reuters:
President Barack Obama has chosen former Procter & Gamble Chief Executive Bob McDonald, an Army veteran, as his nominee to be the next secretary of veterans affairs, a senior Obama administration official said on Sunday. Obama's announcement of McDonald, 61, will be made this week, possibly on Monday. If confirmed by the Senate, McDonald would be tasked with repairing the Veterans Administration after widespread evidence of delays in military veterans getting healthcare at VA facilities. The announcement is to come days after a White House review found significant and chronic failures across the board at the Veterans Administration and evidence that a "corrosive culture" prevails.
If confirmed, McDonald would replace Eric Shinseki, who resigned in late May after significant problems at the VA, including secretive wait lists, became highly publicized.

The attorney for Lois Lerner is speaking out, saying that his client doesn't have any records of the emails that were lost in a hard drive crash in 2011. From Politico:
Lois Lerner has no records of two years of missing emails and Republican claims that she’s hiding something are “silly,” her lawyer said in his first interview since the controversy around the former IRS official erupted two weeks ago. “She doesn’t know what happened,” lawyer William Taylor III said of the 2011 computer crash that erased two years worth of Lerner’s correspondence. “It’s a little brazen to think she did this on purpose.”
Taylor indicated that Lerner “requested that IT use every possible resource” to try and recover the contents of her hard drive. Regardless of the misfortune of Lerner’s unrecoverable hard drive, many have asked if the emails were printed in hard copy anywhere as a backup. IRS rules specify in part that agency emails “created or received in the transaction of agency business” are to be printed and kept on file. IRS commissioner John Koskinen has said that not all emails are necessarily considered an “official record.”

IRS commissioner John Koskinen appeared on CNN Thursday with Wolf Blitzer, where he answered questions about the ongoing IRS scandal. From CNN:
The embattled head of the Internal Revenue Service blames faulty technology for what he called serious problems under investigation by Congress, the Justice Department and the Treasury inspector general. John Koskinen told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Thursday that he apologized to anyone who had their application for tax-exempt status held up by IRS targeting of political labels. "The improper criteria used to highlight organizations for investigation just by their name was a mistake," Koskinen said. "I apologize to anybody who ever had their applications held up needlessly. Everybody needs to be confident that the IRS is going to treat them fairly no matter who they are. Republicans, Democrats, whatever organization they belong to. So it's a serious matter." However, he maintained that evidence uncovered so far by six investigations found no involvement by the White House, as alleged by some Republicans:
Koskinen has been under fire in recent days, after congressional hearings on Monday and last Friday, both of which were filled with some quite contentious exchanges. When asked by Blitzer whether someone should be blamed for the “antiquated, awful system” that was the cause of emails lost in Lerner’s hard drive crash having been unrecoverable, Koskinen shifted away from the controversy at hand and focused instead on moving forward. “Well, I think somebody, the IG, is investigating all of the issues about the hard drive crash.” Koskinen went on to explain, “My approach when I parachute into these things is to try to fix the problems rather than try to figure out who to blame, and sometime ago I asked for us to review exactly how the email system runs and whether we couldn’t convert to a more searchable, more retainable email system. I’ve also said we need to respond to the concerns of the archivist, who came out with a very interesting suggestion recently that for agencies struggling, moving forward into an electronic system, they should take the senior people and make sure all of those records and emails are preserved. I should emphasize that all emails are not official records, so if an email is lost, it doesn’t mean we’ve lost an official record.”

A report from an independent federal agency on Monday sharply criticized the Department of Veterans Affairs for failing to adequately respond to information from whistleblowers to “address systemic concerns that impact patient care” at VA facilities. The report from the U.S. Office of Special Counsel blasted the VA for downplaying the severity of various identified problems at some of its facilities. It also outlined a number of examples of what it called “part of a troubling pattern of deficient patient care at VA facilities nationwide.” From CNN:
Two veterans in a Veterans Affairs psychiatric facility languished for years without proper treatment, according to a scathing letter and report sent Monday to the White House by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, or OSC. In one case, a veteran with a service-connected psychiatric condition was in the facility for eight years before he received a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation; in another case, a veteran only had one psychiatric note in his medical chart in seven years as an inpatient at the Brockton, Massachusetts, facility. Examples such as those are the core of the report released Monday by the OSC, an independent government agency that protects whistleblowers.
The OSC letter/report references issues at a number of VA facilities, including several previously reported problems at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Jackson, Mississippi that were noted in a September 17, 2013 letter. The OSC concluded in that earlier letter that “[T]he Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has consistently failed to take responsibility for identified problems. Even in cases of substantiated misconduct, including acknowledged violations of state and federal law, the VA routinely suggests that the problems do not affect patient care.” The report also goes on to note that OSC currently has over 50 pending cases of whistleblower disclosures from VA employees that “allege threats to patient health or safety,” 29 of which have been referred to the VA for investigation.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is set to hear testimony tonight from IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, in an evening hearing on the subject of Lois Lerner’s missing emails. [This hearing has concluded. Full video will be posted when available]. Some clips from the hearing can also be viewed below. Remainder of the original post follows clips.

Secretary of State John Kerry was in Egypt on Sunday at the start of his trip to the Middle East and Europe this week, during which the situation in Iraq is expected to be a major discussion point. Kerry met in Cairo with newly elected Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, followed by a joint news conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri. When asked during that news conference if U.S. policy was the cause of recent violence in Iraq and Libya, Kerry said, "The United States of America was not responsible for what happened in Libya, and nor is it responsible for what is happening in Iraq today," reported Newsweek. More on Kerry's comments from NPR:

Militants led by ISIS have reportedly seized a border post at one of the border points between Iraq and Syria, as the situation in Iraq continues to remain unstable. From Reuters, Iraq militants take Syria-border post in drive for caliphate:
Sunni fighters seized a border post on the Iraq-Syria frontier, security sources said on Saturday, smashing a line drawn by colonial powers almost a century ago with the aim of creating an Islamic Caliphate stretching from the Mediterranean Sea to Iran. The militants, led by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), first moved into the nearby town of al-Qaim on Friday, pushing out security forces, the sources said. Once border guards heard that al-Qaim had fallen, they left their posts and militants moved in, the sources said. Sameer al-Shwiali, media adviser to the commander of Iraq's anti-terrorist squad, told Reuters that the Iraqi army was still in control of al-Qaim.
A senior Iraqi official also said the towns of Rawa, Ana and Huseiba were under the control of militants, according to CNN. The border crossing of Al-Qaim is significant because of its location, as it would allow militants easier access between Syria and Iraq. arwa-damon-cnn-tweet-iraq

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen is expected to testify in a hearing before the House Ways and Means Committee on Friday morning at 9:00am EST. According to a statement from the committee, the hearing will focus on the IRS’s recent statement about the production of emails of former IRS official Lois Lerner. You should be able to view the livestream of the hearing at the committee’s UStream channel. [Hearing in Recess -- here are some videos]

Hillary Clinton joined FOX News' Bret Baier and Greta Van Susteren Tuesday evening for a much anticipated interview, where the former Secretary of State answered questions on a number of topics - Benghazi, the controversial swap of Sgt. Bergdahl for the Taliban five, the IRS scandal, and a wide range of other issues. Clinton is out with a new book, "Hard Choices," and she indicated on numerous occasions as she answered some of the questions, "I write about this in my book." That said, I'm not sure there was much to come out of the FOX interview that couldn't be found in the pages of Clinton's book. As is often the case with most interviews with any subject, there seemed to be a few missed opportunities for further pressing on some of her answers, as several noted in comments on Twitter. There were a couple instances however where Bair or Van Susteren tried to politely prod Clinton to expand upon an answer. Here was one exchange between Van Susteren and Clinton on the topic of the Bergdahl swap.

GRETA: Afghanistan. Would you have made that swap for Sgt. Bergdahl? Five Taliban for Sgt. Bergdahl? CLINTON: Well, as I write in the book, and at the time, I was trying to put together a bigger deal, a deal that would create a negotiation between the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban to try to move the Taliban to renounce violence, renounce al Qaeda, and agree to support the constitution and the laws. GRETA: Isn't that part of their ideology though, violence? I mean look at the violence towards women. Aren't we abandoning the women to the Taliban?

President Obama notified Congress on Monday that starting Sunday, June 15th, approximately 275 U.S. Armed Forces personnel were deploying to Iraq to provide security for the U.S. Embassy and its staff in Baghdad. (Read the full text of the letter). From USA Today:
President Obama notified Congress on Monday that about 275 U.S. military personnel are deploying to Iraq to provide support and security for U.S. personnel and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Obama also said the troops are equipped for combat and will remain in Iraq until the security situation becomes such that they are no longer needed. These forces are entering Iraq with the consent of the government there, White House press secretary Jay Carney said. He said the report to Congress is consistent with the War Powers Resolution. The Pentagon said 170 of the troops arrived over the weekend in Baghdad and another 100 were moved into the region to help with embassy security as some of the staff was being relocated in the area. The embassy remains open and operating.
While the US embassy remains operating, the State Department announced on Sunday that additional security personnel would be added to the staff in Baghdad, though some of its other staff would be temporarily relocated. The United Nations also announced Monday that it has relocated nearly 60 of its staff from Baghdad to Amman, Jordan, according to Thomson Reuters.  A spokesman for the UN indicated that additional relocations could be possible in the next few days. The news comes after insurgents have advanced in Iraq in recent days, and on Monday reportedly seized the northern city of Tal Afar, according to the NY Times.

A Ukrainian military transport plane was shot down by separatists in eastern Ukraine Saturday, killing 49 service members in what has been reported as the highest death toll suffered by government forces in a single incident since the unrest began there months ago. From Reuters:
Pro-Russian separatists shot down an army transport plane in east Ukraine on Saturday, killing 49 servicemen and dealing a blow to a military campaign to defeat the rebels and hold the country together. President Petro Poroshenko promised an "adequate" response after the plane was hit by an anti-aircraft missile as it came in to land at the airport outside the city of Luhansk, a centre of the rebellion against central rule that began in April. "All those involved in cynical acts of terrorism of this magnitude must be punished," he said, declaring Sunday a day of mourning for the nine crew and 40 paratroopers killed. He later consulted with his security and defense chiefs but gave no details of how they would retaliate.
A statement from the Ministry of Defense indicated the plane had been carrying machinery, equipment and food.  Nine crew members and 40 paratroopers aboard the plane were killed, according to the military wing of the prosecutor general’s office, the NY Times reported. Ukraine’s military had in recent days stepped up efforts to reclaim control of parts of eastern Ukraine from pro-Russia rebel forces.  On Friday, Ukrainian troops drove rebels out of the southeastern port city of Mariupol after heavy fighting. The news of Saturday’s incident regarding the downing of the military plane comes after the U.S. State Department on Friday accused Russia of sending tanks and weapons to separatists in Ukraine.

The IRS is unable to produce some of the emails of former agency official Lois Lerner due to a computer crash, according to a statement from the House Ways and Means Committee.
Today, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) issued the following statement regarding the Internal Revenue Service informing the Committee that they have lost Lois Lerner emails from a period of January 2009 – April 2011.  Due to a supposed computer crash, the agency only has Lerner emails to and from other IRS employees during this time frame.  The IRS claims it cannot produce emails written only to or from Lerner and outside agencies or groups, such as the White House, Treasury, Department of Justice, FEC, or Democrat offices. “The fact that I am just learning about this, over a year into the investigation, is completely unacceptable and now calls into question the credibility of the IRS’s response to Congressional inquiries.  There needs to be an immediate investigation and forensic audit by Department of Justice as well as the Inspector General. “Just a short time ago, Commissioner Koskinen promised to produce all Lerner documents.  It appears now that was an empty promise.  Frankly, these are the critical years of the targeting of conservative groups that could explain who knew what when, and what, if any, coordination there was between agencies.  Instead, because of this loss of documents, we are conveniently left to believe that Lois Lerner acted alone.  This failure of the IRS requires the White House, which promised to get to the bottom of this, to do an Administration-wide search and production of any emails to or from Lois Lerner.  The Administration has repeatedly referred us back to the IRS for production of materials.  It is clear that is wholly insufficient when it comes to determining the full scope of the violation of taxpayer rights.”
Last month, the Ways and Means Committee indicated that the IRS had finally agreed to turn over all Lois Lerner emails to the Committee.  But according to Friday's statement, it appears there had not been any mention until now that some of the emails would not be able to be produced because of the supposed computer crash. Apparently, Lerner tried to have technicians reconstruct her hard drive at the time of the crash, the Wall Street Journal reported.

FBI Director James Comey confirmed Wednesday that the agency's Phoenix office has opened a criminal investigation into the VA. From CNN:
The FBI says it has opened a criminal investigation of the Veterans Affairs Department, which is grappling with a scandal over long waiting lists to provide care and allegations that paperwork was faked to make delays appear shorter. FBI Director James Comey told a House hearing on Wednesday the bureau's Phoenix office has joined an ongoing review by the VA inspector general. The move at least partly satisfies requests from key members of Congress from both parties who have pressed for a full probe by the Justice Department as the scandal accelerated in recent weeks and led to the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki in May. Officials have said the inspector general is sharing findings with federal prosecutors, and the Justice Department could launch a full-blown criminal probe if any of the information meets the standard for doing so.
An audit released earlier this week revealed that 57,000 veterans have been waiting 90 days or longer for their first VA appointment, while another 64,000 never even got appointments.  Other recent reviews exposed the practice of employees manipulating appointment schedules to hide wait times.  A report from the Veterans Affairs inspector general indicated that inappropriate scheduling practices are a systemic issue. Many of these problems first gained intense media attention after reports at the Phoenix VA center, and this is where the FBI is expected to begin its investigation. From AZCentral:
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