President Obama is scheduled to hold a joint news conference with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan from the White House at 12 p.m. EDT Thursday.
While international affairs, and specifically the civil war in Syria, are expected to dominate the discussion, expect Obama to also be asked about the trio of scandals plaguing his administration: the AP phone records scandal, the IRS targeting of tea party and conservative groups seeking nonprofit status, and the massaging of talking points in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and two others.
Obama addressed the nation Wednesday night on the IRS scandal, informing the country that acting IRS head Steven Miller handed in his resignation becasue of the controversy.
“I’ve reviewed the Treasury Department watchdog’s report, and the misconduct that it uncovered is inexcusable,” the president said. “It’s inexcusable and Americans have a right to be angry about it and I am angry about it. I will not tolerate this kind of behavior in any agency, but especially not in the IRS, given the power that it has and the reach that it has in all of our lives.”
Also on Wednesday, the White House released 100 pages of emails from various federal agencies on the contentious Benghazi talking points. Some Republicans have accused the administration of covering up what it knew about the motivation for the attack on the consulate. The White House, based on initial information from the CIA, said the attack was spurred by protesters angered about the anti-Islam YouTube video “Innocence of Muslims,” but later said it was the result of a coordinated terrorist attack by a group sympathetic to al-Qaeda.
Regarding the AP controversy, Obama has yet to discuss it in-depth but has said he first learned that the Justice Department obtained the phone records of 100 AP staffers through media reports.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder recused himself from Justice’s investigation into the leak of confidential information used by the AP in a story last year about a Yemen-based terror plot disrupted by the CIA. The leak led to the seizing of the AP phone records in Justice’s effort to find the source of the leak. Holder said he had information that was used in the leak and it would be a conflict of interest for him to head the investigation. His deputy, Jim Cole, is spearheading the probe.
Justice subpoenaed the phone records without informing the AP, and the move has been criticized by elected officials on both sides of the aisle who said the action amounted to press intimidation and was an act of government overreach. Laws say that Justice has to exhaust all methods to find the leak before the agency can go after such phone records.
Erdogan is expected to ask Obama to get more involved to help stop the fighting in Syria, with whom Turkey shares a border. So far, the U.S. government has provided nonlethal aid to the rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's army.
During his Wednesday press briefing, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Obama “will have discussions with the [Erdogan] about a range of issues. And I'm sure that Syria will be very high on the agenda, including ways that we can, working together and with our partners, bring about the transition that is so essential in Syria, including the efforts that are under way to revitalize the Geneva Framework for a political transition -- we've been working with the Russians on that matter as well as others -- and including the ways that we are working to provide assistance to the opposition and to the Syrian people.”