Republicans are pushing harder than ever to investigate two separate but equally explosive issues that could cause lasting damage to the White House: the attack that killed four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, and the targeting by the Internal Revenue Service of conservative groups in advance of the 2012 election.
One of the most aggressive investigators into the Benghazi tragedy is California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the Republican-controlled House oversight committee. Issa said Sunday that the American people were "effectively lied to for a period of about a month" and that the public deserves "more facts." Issa said he will pursue his committee inquiry into what happened, prompting Democrats to cry foul.
"Unfortunately, this has been caught up in the 2016 presidential campaign – this effort to go after Hillary Clinton," said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. Clinton was secretary of state at the time of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi last Sept. 11. Among the four Americans killed was U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
Clinton is considered a strong potential candidate for president in 2016 if she decides to run. Durbin told CBS News's "Face the Nation" that the Republicans want to create "a good political show."
But Issa told NBC's "Meet the Press": "Hillary Clinton's not a target. President Obama's not a target. The target is, how did we fail three different ways? Fail to heed the warnings of an impending attack. Fail to respond properly during the attack – at least we should have done better, and I think everyone knows that. And then fail to get the truth to the American people in a timely fashion."
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who has also been harshly critical of the administration's handling of Benghazi, told ABC News's "This Week" that there has been a "cover up."
Regarding the IRS, House Republicans are planning hearings on the agency's targeting of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, including tea party affiliates, as early as 2011.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said on CNN's "State of the Nation," "This is truly outrageous" and called on President Obama to "make crystal clear that this is totally unacceptable in America."
An IRS official has admitted that it was a mistake for the agency to single out these groups for special scrutiny.
White House officials tried to minimize the GOP accusations. "Partisan investigations by the Republicans have been a part of daily life around here since the Republicans took over the House in 2011," senior White House adviser Dan Pfeiffer told the Washington Post. "Every time they jump up and down and scream, "Watergate!' they end up with egg on their faces."
Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog "Ken Walsh's Washington" for usnews.com, and "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He is the author of the new book "Prisoners of the White House: The Isolation of America's Presidents and the Crisis of Leadership." Ken Walsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, and followed on Facebook and Twitter.