There were three developments in the IRS-targets-the-Tea Party scandal in the past two days, all individually meriting coverage on their own right but, taken together as a package are most definitely newsworthy. Despite this, neither ABC's World News nor the CBS Evening News nor the NBC Nightly News spared even a second of coverage to them on their July 10 broadcasts.
By contrast, time was made to cover stories like country artist Garth Brooks's return to the industry (ABC), the 100th anniversary of Babe Ruth's start in the big leagues (CBS), and a baby boom in Washington, D.C., nine months after the government shutdown (NBC). Both NBC and ABC briefly mentioned the Emmy Awards nominations and all three broadcasts had time to note the passing of modeling agency executive Eileen Ford.
As for the trio of developments in the IRS scandal, first, as Breitbart.com's Wynton Hall reported yesterday, Ms. Lerner expressed in an email a question as to whether messages on the IRS's instant-messaging system were automatically archived. Lerner reportedly expressed relief upon being informed that, no, they were not automatically saved and retained by the IRS. Lerner also repotedly warned colleagues to "to be cautious about what we say in emails" because of potential congressional inquiries.
Then, today FoxNews.com reported a ruling from a federal judge that the IRS must produce, under oath, an accounting for "how the agency lost a trove of emails from the official at the heart of the Tea Party targeting scandal":
U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan gave the tax agency 30 days to file a declaration by an "appropriate official" to address the computer issues with ex-official Lois Lerner.
The decision came Thursday as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch, which along with GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill has questioned how the IRS lost the emails and, in some cases, had no apparent way to retrieve them.
The IRS first acknowledged it lost the emails in a letter to senators last month.
Finally, late this afternoon, Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas) announced that he had put forward for a vote a resolution to empower the sergeant-at-arms of the U.S. House of Representatives to seek out and arrest Lois Lerner, who was recently ruled in contempt of Congress.
"Under the resolution Lerner would be held in the D.C. jail and would have full legal rights and access to an attorney," noted a press release by the Texas Republican's office. The statement went on to note instances in which former Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the New York Times seemed amenable to authorizing the sergeant-at-arms to effect the arrest of a person held in contempt (emphasis mine):
Contempt of Congress is a criminal offense (Act of January 24, 1857, Ch. 19, sec. 1, 11 Stat. 155.) Congress’ power to hold someone in contempt has been recognized by the United States Supreme Court four times.
Democrats admit the House has the power to arrest those in contempt of Congress. “I could have arrested Karl Rove on any given day,” former House Speaker and current House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi told The Huffington Post just days ago, on June 20. “I’m not kidding. There’s a prison here in the Capitol. If we had spotted him in the Capitol, we could have arrested him.”
CNN has also recognized Congress’ power to arrest those in contempt of Congress, going so far in 2008 as to televise potential locations where Rove would be held.
The New York Times also recognizes the House’s power to arrest.
“From the Republic’s earliest days, Congress has had the right to hold recalcitrant witnesses in contempt — and even imprison them — all by itself. In 1795, shortly after the Constitution was ratified, the House ordered its sergeant at arms to arrest and detain two men accused of trying to bribe members of Congress. The House held a trial and convicted one of them,” the Times wrote in a Dec. 4, 2007 editorial.
“In 1821, the Supreme Court upheld Congress’s right to hold people in contempt and imprison them. Without this power, the court ruled, Congress would “be exposed to every indignity and interruption, that rudeness, caprice, or even conspiracy, may mediate against it.” Later, in a 1927 case arising from the Teapot Dome scandal, the court upheld the Senate’s arrest of the brother of a former attorney general — carried out in Ohio by the deputy sergeant at arms — for ignoring a subpoena to testify,” the Times wrote.