The New York Times and John Fund each noted that Sen. Claire McCaskill said President Obama had not provided a legally "sufficient reason" for removing Gerald Walpin from his position as inspector general. But neither noted that McCaskill subsequently said additional information provided by the White House put it "in full compliance" with legal requirements and that "the decision to remove Walpin appears well founded."
In addressing President Obama's removal of Gerald Walpin from the position of inspector general for the Corporation for National and Community Service, The New York Times and Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund both noted Sen. Claire McCaskill's (D-MO) June 16 criticism that the White House "failed to follow the proper procedure in notifying Congress as to the removal." However, neither the Times article nor Fund mentioned McCaskill's subsequent June 17 statement, in which she wrote that a June 16 letter by the administration expanding on its rationale for removing Walpin "now puts the White House in full compliance with the notice requirement in the law" and stated that "[t]he reasons given in the most recent White House letter are substantial and the decision to remove Walpin appears well founded."
In an article that ran in the June 18 print edition of the Times, reporter Neil A. Lewis wrote that Obama "quickly encountered resistance from the Senate, including from a fellow Democrat, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, who said Mr. Obama had not provided sufficient reason for the dismissal, as required under a recent law intended to protect the independence of the corps of inspectors general." In a June 17 column published on the Wall Street Journal's website at 11:07 p.m. ET, Fund quoted from McCaskill's initial June 16 statement and wrote that McCaskill "says President Obama didn't abide by the law when he fired one of those watchdogs last week. ... She noted that the stated reasons for Mr. Walpin's firing -- that the White House no longer had confidence in him -- were not a sufficient explanation." But while both articles reported that the White House sent a letter following McCaskill's criticism setting out its reason for Walpin's dismissal, neither noted that McCaskill said that she was satisfied with the White House's explanation.
On June 16, McCaskill released the following statement regarding the Obama administration's removal of Walpin:
"The White House has failed to follow the proper procedure in notifying Congress as to the removal of the Inspector General for the Corporation for National and Community Service. The legislation which was passed last year requires that the president give a reason for the removal. 'Loss of confidence' is not a sufficient reason. I'm hopeful the White House will provide a more substantive rationale, in writing, as quickly as possible," McCaskill said
McCaskill expressed disappointment that the White House initially failed to follow proper procedure by not giving the reasons for Walpin's removal; however, the additional information provided late Tuesday in a letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee put the White House in full compliance with the notice requirement in the law. The law was authored by McCaskill and requires the president to give Congress 30 days advance notice of an IG's dismissal, along with reasons for the termination.
"Last night, in response to my request for adequate information on the firing of Inspector General for the Corporation for National and Community Service Gerald Walpin, the White House submitted a letter to Senators Lieberman and Collins that now puts the White House in full compliance with the notice requirement in the law. The next step for Congress is to use the 30 days provided by the notice to seek further information and undertake any further review that might be necessary. The reasons given in the most recent White House letter are substantial and the decision to remove Walpin appears well founded."
Several media outlets reported on McCaskill's follow-up statement on the afternoon of June 17 -- well before the Times article and Fund's column were published. For example, The Kansas City Star's Prime Buzz blog stated in a June 17 post: "(3:10 p.m.) McCaskill just released a statement (below) saying the Obama administration is now in 'full compliance' with the law." A June 17 CNN.com Political Ticker blog post reported on McCaskill's statement at 2:34 p.m. ET, and TPMMuckraker reported on it at 5:58 p.m. ET.
From the June 18 New York Times article:
The White House said Wednesday that President Obama had dismissed a government agency's internal watchdog because he was incompetent and had behaved bizarrely, disputing accusations that he was fired because he had uncovered embarrassing problems in the AmeriCorps program.
Last week, Mr. Obama abruptly fired the watchdog, Gerald Walpin, the inspector general of the Corporation for National and Community Service, who was a holdover from the Bush administration, saying little except that he had lost confidence in Mr. Walpin.
But the president quickly encountered resistance from the Senate, including from a fellow Democrat, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, who said Mr. Obama had not provided sufficient reason for the dismissal, as required under a recent law intended to protect the independence of the corps of inspectors general.
Mr. Walpin suggested in interviews that his dismissal was connected to two recent reports in which he was critical of programs that received money from AmeriCorps, which provides living allowances and education grants to volunteers for community groups.
After complaints about the dismissal grew, the White House fired back on Wednesday, releasing a letter from a senior counsel to the president sharply criticizing Mr. Walpin's record. The letter, sent to Senators Joseph I. Lieberman, a Connecticut independent, and Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, justified the dismissal on several grounds, including what it said was Mr. Walpin's "confused, disoriented" behavior at a meeting of the agency's board on May 20, when, according to the letter, he was unable to respond to questions.
The letter, from Norman L. Eisen, the special counsel to the president who handles ethics matters, also noted that a career federal prosecutor in Sacramento had filed an ethics complaint about Mr. Walpin's actions in the case involving Mayor Johnson. And the Eisen letter said that Mr. Walpin chose to work in New York, not in Washington, over the board's objections and that he "had become unduly disruptive to agency operations."
From Fund's June 17 online column:
A leading Democratic Senator who wrote the law shielding the government's inspectors general from political pressure or retaliation says President Obama didn't abide by the law when he fired one of those watchdogs last week. This despite the fact that Senator Obama was a co-sponsor of the legislation when it passed Congress last year.
Senator Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat and longtime Obama supporter, says that in firing Gerald Walpin, Inspector General of the government's community service agency AmeriCorps, proper procedures were flouted. The law requires that any inspector general who is removed be given 30 days notice. The White House told Mr. Walpin he had to leave immediately.
"The White House has failed to follow the proper procedure in notifying Congress as to the removal of the Inspector General for the Corporation for National and Community Service," Ms. McCaskill said. "The legislation which was passed last year requires that the president give a reason for the removal."
She noted that the stated reasons for Mr. Walpin's firing -- that the White House no longer had confidence in him -- were not a sufficient explanation. Mr. Walpin claims he was fired after he refused to reinstate Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson's eligibility for federal funding following the discovery that thousands of dollars given to a non-profit run by Mr. Johnson had been misused. Mr. Johnson, a former NBA player and prominent supporter of Mr. Obama's presidential campaign, recently agreed to return about half of the $800,000 in AmeriCorps funding he had received in previous years.
It didn't take long for the Obama White House to respond to Senator McCaskill's criticism. Last night, Norm Eisen, a White House counsel, sent a letter to the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee attacking Mr. Walpin directly. Mr. Eisen wrote that at a May 20 AmeriCorps board meeting, the inspector general "was confused, disoriented, unable to answer questions and exhibited other behavior that led the Board to question his capacity to serve."