After Weinergate, Coming Soon: Issagate? [UPDATED X2]
The dust is going to take some time to settle on the stupidest scandal since the last one. But while it does, some interesting information is emerging from and about the myriad networks and individuals involved in hunting down Anthony Weiner’s pecker.
In a series of e-mails exchanged on May 25, Mike Stack and his Twitter sidekick “Dan Wolfe” discussed a Tumblr posting by the high school student that they believed showed she was having “private conversations” with Weiner. Wolfe, who noted that he had made screen captures of the girl’s Tumblr blog, exclaimed, “This is MAJOR!”
After Wolfe told Stack about making the screen captures from the girl’s Tumblr page, Stack suggested how they could release the information: “I think that since we have the stuff screencapped we call or email his office. But cc a whole bunch of people asking for a comment.” But Stack then noted, “She is underage, however. Let me email Darrell Issa press sec.”
Stack, e-mails reveal, was referring to Seamus Kraft ..., press secretary and “director of digital strategy,” for the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which is chaired by Issa, a California Republican. Issa, who has called the Obama administration “corrupt,” is effectively the leading congressional investigator.
In an e-mail to Wolfe, Stack wrote, “This guy Seamus Kraft is awesome.” Stack noted that he was referred to Kraft by a woman who had recently worked for Issa’s committee. The female staffer, Stack said, “thought I would be good at keeping Seamus and Mr. Issa up to date with ethics and BHO ... issues around the clock.” Stack then remarked, “They have proven to be great allies,” adding that Wolfe should “Follow mr Issa at @darrellissa.” ...
So far, all we have to back up this link between the Twitter Twins and Darrell Issa’s office is the word of Stack—a convicted criminal heavily involved in online pornography—and “Dan Wolfe,” an anonymous Twitter activist. Hardly reliable witnesses, surely?
Oh, wait. The Smoking Gun continues:
Asked this afternoon about Weiner-related contacts with the toxic Twitter Twins, Kraft said, “I don’t recall that right now.” After saying that, “I have exchanged e-mails with Mike Stack before” Kraft promised he would call back a reporter in 15 minutes after conducting some research. By press time—nearly two hours later—Kraft had not called back with the results of that research (though Kraft did start following TSG’s Twitter feed at 2:55 PM).
His memory, let alone his telephone etiquette, must be faulty, if the emails are to believed:
During their May 25 correspondence, as the duo further discussed how to handle their “MAJOR” forthcoming Tumblr disclosure about Weiner, Stack wrote Wolfe to tell him that he had copied him on an e-mail, which apparently was sent to Kraft, the Issa aide. “Let’s see what Mr. Issa says. Talk in an hour,” added Stack ....
A “paranoid” Wolfe would later write of his concerns that “there are a lot of RINO’s ... out there that would alert Weiner.”
In response, Stack vouched for the 26-year-old Kraft, who last year earned $76,599 working for Issa’s committee. Kraft, a Georgetown University graduate, previously worked in the Bush administration and took the House post days prior to Obama’s January 2009 inauguration.
The May 25 correspondence between Wolfe and Stack stretched into the evening. After Wolfe asked, “Hey bro! Any news from Seamus?,” Stack replied, “not yet. he was in the office but didn’t get to me.”
At 8:41 PM, Wolfe wondered, “You think we should wait til tomorrow?” Thirty minutes later, Stack answered, “unless you wanna do tonite…Seamus will get back to me in the morning, but we don’t need to wait for him. He can be of help later on if needed.”
At time of writing, I’m still unaware of any responses from Issa’s office. I’ll update if any come to light.
This raises all sorts of questions. Andrew Breitbart has claimed that one of his main motivations in pursuing the story was that Weiner was leaving himself wide open to blackmail, blackmail of a member of Congress obviously being a very serious offense with possible national security implications. So he decided to blackmail Weiner himself, releasing some more innocuous photos from his stash before Weiner finally cracked and made his press conference confession. And the blackmail continues:
The conservative blogger [Breitbart] who reported that a photo of a man’s crotch had been sent from Rep. Anthony Weiner’s Twitter account to a woman college student says he has an X-rated picture he’ll publicize if the New York Democrat attempts reprisals against him. Conservative activist Andrew Breitbart of the website BigGovernment.com told NBC’s “Today” show on Tuesday he considers the image “an insurance policy” against attacks from Weiner, who one day earlier admitted the crotch photo was of him.
So Issa’s office was made aware of information that could be used to blackmail a congressman—and indeed, is now being used to do so.
What action does it intend to take on this, and what action did it take when informed of the original concerns?
Was Issa himself made aware of any this?
If not, why not?
In what ways did the office collude with Stack and Wolfe?
What is the nature of its collusion with Stack in the past?
What correspondence has Kraft had with either of them since the leaked emails?
Since we have to explore every avenue, if we follow the calls for investigations from certain quarters, was Issa’s office party to a sting operation to entrap Weiner through his known weaknesses?
You can no doubt add more yourself. I wonder if the upcoming ethics investigation of Weinergate will include any of these considerations?
Meanwhile, since I have no intention of discussing this kerfuffle without mentioning the scandal it so conveniently obscured from general view, here’s a good roundup from Joy Reid about what she’s calling “Clarencegate”: “What Weinergate interrupted: Clarence Thomas’ (ongoing) conflict of interest scandal (links archive)”
MORE: The Smoking Gun didn’t transcribe one email in particular in full, so I’ll remedy that now:
From: Michael Stack [email address redacted—YAFB]
To: Dan Wolfe [email address redacted—YAFB]
Sent: Wednesday, May 25, 2011 2:51PM
Subject: Re: check this out bro
This guy Seamus Kraft is awesome. We were introduced by a writer at the Daily Caller who saw my postings at Weasel Zippers (I’ll send to you) and referred me to this person named Ashley Swope. She thought I would be good at keeping Seamus and Mr Issa up to date with ethics and BHO issues around the clock. They have proven to be great allies. Follow mr Issa at @darrelissa
Talk in a bit
So I need to add another couple of questions to my list:
How does Darrell Issa’s office link into the right-wing online media, and in particular the blogosphere?
Is the flow of information between them one-way?
UPDATE 1: I haven’t gone digging too far yet, but it looks like Issa has had a slack hand in “oversight” of his minions in the past, not least with reference to their online activities and the information they trade:
According to Jake Sherman at Politico, Issa spokesman Kurt Bardella has been fired. Yesterday, Politico reported that Issa had “launched an inquiry into whether spokesman Kurt Bardella improperly shared e-mails from other reporters with a New York Times reporter writing a book on Washington’s political culture.”
The reporter in question is Mark Leibovich, and the implication is that Politico reporters’ emails were among those shared. Leibovich, if you recall, is the author of a lengthy April 2010 New York Times Magazine profile of Politico’s Mike Allen.
As Politico is at the center of this scandal, they’ve naturally been reporting the bejeezus out of it. The Issa probe currently dominates their front page, and includes an Allen piece on Bardella emphasizing that he is “known for self-promotion.”
Here’s a totally true thing about the Beltway media Bardella said in a profile of Issa written by Ryan Lizza, causing outrage:
Some people in the press, I think, are just lazy as hell. There are times when I pitch a story and they do it word for word. That’s just embarrassing. They’re adjusting to a time that demands less quality and more quantity. And it works to my advantage most of the time, because I think most reporters have liked me packaging things for them. Most people will opt for what’s easier, so they can move on to the next thing. Reporters are measured by how often their stuff gets on Drudge. It’s a bad way to be, but it’s reality.
UPDATE 2: Sam Stein reports that Issa claims he knew nothing about all this:
Issa did not know that the two self-described conservatives—Mike Stack and “Dan Wolfe”—had reached out to his aides, said Frederick Hill, his spokesman. He only became aware of it on Monday, when the website The Smoking Gun published four emails exchanged between Stack and Wolfe (an alias) in which they discussed efforts to touch base with Seamus Kraft, Issa’s director of digital strategy.
“We did not respond to the inquiry we received nor did we offer any advice or counsel,” said Hill.
That conservative operatives with dirt on a Democratic congressman would try to loop Issa’s oversight office into their operations isn’t entirely surprising. While the ethics committee is the body charged with handling such matters, the California Republican is a watchdog with a much higher profile. His office and the Daily Caller, moreover, have shared several staff members, which could explain why a writer for the paper would suggest that Stack share his information with the congressman. The duo didn’t trust everyone in the GOP. Wolfe, who under the twitter handle @PatriotUSA76 would go on to uncover the explicit Weiner photo, warned in an email on May 25 that Stack should avoid reaching out to Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) because he was “friendly” with Weiner, having attended his wedding.
So for at least a second documented time in recent months, if we’re to believe Issa’s denial, there has been collusion between those working in Issa’s department and “conservative operatives.”
Is he just totally incompetent, or turning a blind eye to information being fed backwards and forwards?
Stein goes on:
While acknowledging that inquiries to Issa’s office were made, Hill, Issa’s spokesman, stressed that the chairman only “became aware of this contact when the Smoking Gun published the story.” That said, the emails, combined with the Times report, will likely provide fodder for progressives who have insisted—even in light of Weiner’s admission to inappropriate behavior—that right-wing operatives played a surreptitious role in the saga.
You’re darn tootin’!