Subcommittee On Oversight, Agency Action, Federal Rights And Federal Courts
Chairman: Ted Cruz
Witnesses: John Koskinen, Cleta Mitchell, Stephen Spaulding, Edward D. Greim, Lawrence Noble, Toby Marie Walker, Diana Aviv, Jenny Beth Martin, Gregory L. Colvin, Jay Sekulow
Under the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran, that nation’s theocratic regime receives relief from economic and arms sanctions in exchange for curtailment of its nuclear program. But there’s a catch – when inspectors seek to verify Iran’s compliance, the Iranians can delay the inspection of any site for at least 24 days.
But before the deal was struck, the Obama administration had promised much more — “anytime, anywhere” inspections, on demand. When asked about this on Sunday, Secretary of State John Kerry displayed symptoms of amnesia.
“This is a term that, honestly, I never heard in the four years that we were negotiating,” Kerry said. “It was not on the table. There’s no such thing in arms control as anytime, anywhere.”
Barring a genuine brain malady, there is no gentle way of skirting around the fact that this is a lie. The White House specifically promised this in public. Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser and spokesman, in making the case for the Iran deal in April, told CNN, “Under this deal, you will have anywhere, anytime, 24/7 access as it relates to the nuclear facilities that Iran has.”
Beyond this, Kerry appears to have specifically discussed it as a negotiating point with senior lawmakers. After speaking with Kerry, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., mentioned “anytime, anywhere” in a speech this spring to Jewish groups uneasy about the deal. And Kerry seems to have told the same thing to the Republican chairmen of the Senate Intelligence and Foreign Relations committees, according to their recollection.
Unfortunately, Kerry’s difficulty in telling the truth extends well beyond the issue of inspections. For example, consider the far more dangerous and controversial provision in the deal that lifts the existing sanctions against Iran’s acquisition of conventional arms and ballistic missiles. Kerry said in the same Sunday interview that the deal extended those sanctions by five and eight years, respectively. On Tuesday, State Department spokesman John Kirby said the same thing explicitly – that the sanctions would have ended if not for the deal.
In fact, the U.N. sanctions needed no extension – they would have remained in place without further action until Iran stopped enrichment of uranium altogether. The deal that Kerry negotiated is what actually lifts the sanctions. And this concession is troubling by itself — after all, even if Iran can argue that its nuclear program has peaceful applications, it cannot say this of its ambition to develop its ballistic missile technology.
But it is even more troubling that Kerry and the Obama administration cannot just admit they traded this concession to get a deal. Instead, they are pretending that their dodgy concession is some kind of diplomatic victory for the United States.
In his weekly radio address, President Obama warned Americans, concerning the debate over the Iran deal, “you’re going to hear a lot of overheated and often dishonest arguments about it in the weeks ahead.” He was right. Only the dishonest arguments are coming from his own administration, which is desperately trying to defend dangerous concessions that will pave the way for a radical regime to finance terrorism and build a nuclear arsenal.
A Justice Department fraud prevention program came under fire Thursday for allegedly morphing into actively pressuring banks to deny financial services to businesses for political reasons.
Operation Choke Point functions as a partnership between the Department of Justice (DOJ) and various other federal agencies which deal with bank regulations, specifically the Treasury and the SEC. The objective of the project is to choke-off fraudulent businesses from accessing financial services, in an effort to protect consumers.
The controversy, however, is over allegations that the DOJ is pressuring financial institutions to decline doing business with so-called “high risk” industries which line up squarely against the political leanings of the current administration. These businesses include ammunition sales, payday loans, pornography, fireworks companies, and others – 24 industries in total, as listed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).
“Operation Choke Point is one of the most dangerous programs I have experienced in my 45 years of service as a bank regulator, bank attorney and consultant, and bank board member. Operating without legal authority and guided by a political agenda, unelected officials at the DOJ are discouraging banks from providing basic banking services…to lawful businesses simply because they don’t like them,” said William M. Isaac, former chairman of the FDIC.
Thursday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing focused on the legality of DOJ overreach. Letters have poured in from company owners in support of these suspicions, noting startling cases where the DOJ reportedly has directly strong-armed banks into dropping clients not engaging in fraud.
Virginia Republican Rep. Robert Goodlatte revealed that one of the more egregious examples sent in to the committee was a meeting between the DOJ and a bank regarding the continued provision of financial services to a payday loan company.
The DOJ official reportedly told the banker, “I don’t like this product, and I don’t believe it should have a place in our financial system. And if you don’t agree, there will be an immediate, unplanned audit of your entire bank.”
The Justice Department has now served over 50 subpoenas on banks, and Alabama Republican Rep. Spencer Bachus expressed considerable concern that dragging banks into a long and expensive process is just an underhanded way of encouraging banks to drop clients as an easy-out.
“Subpoenas are expensive to comply with and can bring unwanted scrutiny. The natural reaction from a financial institution might be to sever relations with the merchant and be done with it,” Bachus said Thursday in a hearing at the Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law.
Missouri Republican Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer brought forward the End Operation Choke Point Act Tuesday to curb the DOJ’s activities in this area. The act would provide financial institutions with safe harbor to serve customers engaged in legal activities, so as to cut out politically motivated attacks on businesses deemed undesirable by the Justice Department.