A senior adviser to President Barack Obama mounted a combative defense of the administration Sunday, saying that the controversies enveloping the White House were the result of Republican lawmakers trying to “drag Washington into a swamp of partisan fishing expeditions, trumped-up hearings and false allegations.”
The remarks came from Dan Pfeiffer, a member of the president’s inner circle, as he appeared on all five major Sunday morning talk shows in an effort to move the administration past what commentators have described as a “hell week” of controversy and missteps. He pointedly rejected Republican criticisms of the president’s actions and leadership style as “offensive” and “absurd,” and he said the administration would not be distracted from doing the nation’s business.
In his appearances, Pfeiffer faced often tough questioning over the Internal Revenue Service’s targeted reviews of conservative groups; the attack on a U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, last September; and the Justice Department’s seizure of journalists’ records.
He repeatedly pointed the finger at Republicans, saying they were exploiting the three issues for political purposes, even as he urged them to work with the administration on legislation to revamp the immigration system and trim the budget deficit.
His warning against “fishing expeditions” came when he was asked on the CBS program “Face the Nation” about a remark by the White House chief of staff, Denis McDonough, who had told The New York Times that he instructed staff not to spend more than 10 percent of their time on the three controversies.
The program’s host, Bob Schieffer, asked whether that meant that the White House did not take the issues seriously.
“Oh, no. Absolutely not,” Pfeiffer said. “There are some very serious issues here, particularly the IRS, where there was inexcusable conduct that needs to be fixed. And that’s going to happen.” But he said the president and his staff needed to keep “actually doing the people’s work and fighting for the middle class.”
Republicans insisted that they would be aggressive in pushing for fuller investigations, particularly of the IRS and Benghazi matters.