As a follow up to yesterday's explosive news, check out today's an amazing - and hideous - interchange between CNN reporter Ed Henry and White House press secretary Robert Gibbs about new evidence that Tim Geithner's New York Fed instructed AIG to hide information from SEC regulators (by the way, big kudos to Henry for trying to get some answers):
Q: Robert, Does the White House believe that Secretary Geithner should testify on the Hill, turn over any documents he has, to sort of clear this up?
MR. GIBBS: Ed, I'd point you to the Treasury Department. I'm sure you've already talked to them. Secretary Geithner was not involved in any of these emails. These decisions did not rise to his level at the Fed. These are emails and decisions made by officials at an independent regulatory agency --
Q: But how do you know that he wasn't involved? He was the leader of the New York Fed.
MR. GIBBS: Right, but he wasn't on the emails that have been talked about and wasn't party to the decision that was being made.
Q: Well, Republican Congressman Issa says there are probably thousands of more emails and he may not be on some that some people have looked at. In the interest of transparency would the White House want more -- I mean, you run AIG now, essentially --
MR. GIBBS: I would point you to the Department of Treasury, which I think will tell you that --
Q: But what does the White House believe?
MR. GIBBS: I just gave you what the White House believes.
Q: Well, no, you gave me the Treasury Department -- no, what do you believe? Do you believe that more emails should come out so we can learn --
MR. GIBBS: What I said was I'm -- I don't know what the story is about the emails. I would tell you that there are not emails that involve Secretary Geithner in this instance. This is emails and decisions that are being made by two people. That decision did not rise to his level.
Q: Okay, last thing on this. Various liberals have jumped on this and other stories about Secretary Geithner, to say that he really is not fit to serve as Treasury Secretary. He still has the President's full confidence?
MR. GIBBS: Of course.
Three things here:
1. Notice that the White House is not denying that illegal action may have occurred - the administration is only making the (preposterous) assertion that the regulatory filings of the largest corporation in the New York Fed's receivership somehow "didn't rise" to Geithner's level. That's right, we're expected to believe the decisions to authorize and then hide multi-billion-dollar taxpayer-financed sweetheart deals for Geithner's friends at Goldman Sachs and all the other big banks obviously - obviously! - "didn't rise" to Geithner's level. Hmm...where have we heard this "no controlling legal authority" argument before...hmm...oh, right - from top Enron executives. And I thought the President was telling us that he believed in "buck stops here" accountability for those at the top, right? Guess not.
2. Gibbs insists Geithner "wasn't party to the decision that was being made" to instruct AIG to hide information from the SEC. He offers no proof of this, other than the fact that Geithner himself isn't on the select emails that have been released. But when pressed about whether Geithner may have known, Gibbs later says "I don't know what the story is about the emails." He also refuses to answer whether the White House will instruct the Treasury Department to release all of AIGs emails to clear up the record, as a group of independent former prosecutors have called for, and as the White House has the power to do because AIG is now owned by the taxpayers. I guess those promises to make this administration "the most transparent in history" are out the window.
3. The fact that the White House can learn about this scandal and then blindly insist that the man at the center of it has the absolute confidence of the president is stunning - and sickening. Van Jones name appears on an ancient (and by the way, perfectly legal) letter of opinion (one that he doesn't even remember signing) about something that has nothing to do with his current job, and that's supposedly worthy of being immediately fired. Tim Geithner heads an institution that helps Goldman Sachs steal $12 billion through AIG and then helps AIG hide that fact - not only does he not get fired from his job as the top financial regulator in America, he gets the full confidence of the President of the United States.
UPDATE: A friend emails me with a very smart explanation for the Van Jones/Tim Geithner discrepancy: "Tim Geithner is rich, white, fiscally conservative & connected to many of the wealthy donors of Obama," he says. "Van Jones is not wealthy, Black, and a street organizer to the poor & working class folks whose vast voting support actually put Obama in the White House. What's so amazing about the double standard? It's the basis of our oligarchy." Exactly.