The Ticket

In scandal-plagued Washington, lawmaker struggles to keep track of issues

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Maryland Democratic Rep. Steny Hoyer (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

With the rumbling of so much scandal ripping through Washington this week—woeful stories about Benghazi, the DOJ subpoena of journalists' phone records and the IRS unfairly targeting conservative groups—it's hard to keep track of all the terrible.

Even lawmakers sometimes struggle.

At Rep. Steny Hoyer's weekly meeting with reporters on Tuesday, the Maryland Democrat was asked if he was concerned about the DOJ seizing phone records from Associated Press journalists working in the House press gallery in the Capitol building.

Hoyer's answer was well-delivered: Articulate, clear, firm and precise.

One problem: He responded to the wrong scandal.

"The IRS activity was inappropriate, inconsistent with our policies and practices as a country, very concerning, needs to be reviewed carefully," Hoyer, one of the top-ranking House Democrats, said in response to a question from Fox News' Chad Pergram about the DOJ. "We need to ensure that this does not happen again, and we need to find out how long it continued, when it was stopped. It is my understanding—there was a front-page story on this at the [Washington] Post—it's my understanding that [IRS official] Lois Lerner, who was apparently overseeing this, at some point in time found out about this and said ..."

When Hoyer named Lerner, Pergram interrupted.

"We're talking about two things," Pergram, who apparently had not heard the first mention of the IRS, said from across the table, "You said Lois Lerner and the IRS."

Another reporter sitting closer to Hoyer, Public Radio International's Todd Zwillich, learned over and said softly, "He's talking about the AP story."

"Oh, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, excuse me," Hoyer said, pausing briefly. "Whatever happened, we need to find out why it happened. But clearly it should not have happened. I don't know enough about whether there was a warrant sought."

Boom. He nailed it!

But Hoyer wasn't finished.

"I don't know fully the rationalization or justification that was being used, but the president's statement that it was outrageous, that there was no place for it and that they have to be held fully accountable is a statement in which I agree," Hoyer went on to say.

But President Barack Obama didn't comment about the DOJ story. And he certainly didn't call it "outrageous." In fact, the White House has declined to say much of anything about the DOJ investigation. Was Hoyer talking about the IRS story again? Yup.

Hoyer continued: "He then points out in another statement with which I agree: 'I can tell you that if you've got the IRS operating in anything less ...'" Hoyer's voice trailed off. "Oh I keep going IRS. I'm really fired up on the IRS."

Hoyer regrouped and returned to his answer about the DOJ.

"I don't have the president's statement on that, but I'm sure the president's statement on that was very much like that regarding the IRS," he said. (It wasn't.) "Neither of the activities is justifiable, outside the ambit in the case of the AP of having a legal mechanism where an interception of communications would have been warranted or justified by a court."

Now for the homestretch. Almost there!

"The House needs to look at this," Hoyer continued. "We need to find out exactly what happened and we need to make sure—that's why I'm confusing the two—that those folks who were involved in this are held accountable if in fact there was wrongdoing. Clearly we should not have either House lines, but particular the lines of the Fourth Estate—the press—subject to being intercepted without knowledge and without court oversight."

And with that, he moved on to other questions.

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