White House Staff Cut Short Interview Regarding Conflicting Statements Made About Firing of Inspector General

Published: Dec 14, 2009

WASHINGTON. D.C. – House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Ranking Member Darrell Issa (R-CA) has sent a letter to Alan Solomont, the former Chairman of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) and the President’s nominee as Ambassador of Spain, following the release of White House Visitor Records which contradict previous statements Solomont has made to Committee investigators regarding the role that Jackie Norris, former Chief of Staff to First Lady Obama and current senior advisor to CNCS, played in the removal of Inspector General Gerald Walpin.

Referring to an interview Committee investigators conducted with Solomont in February of 2009, Issa noted that, “Committee investigators specifically asked if you discussed any Corporation business, including the issues relating to the Corporation’s Office of Inspector General, with Ms. Norris.  You indicated that you did not.”

However, on November 25th, the White House released visitor records that revealed Mr. Solomont had visited the White House 17 times since January 20th – meeting with Ms. Norris three times, including on June 9th, the day before Mr. Walpin was removed as Inspector General of CNCS by the President.  In an attempt to reconcile the previous statements, Committee investigators re-interview Mr. Solomont on December 8th but the questioning was cut short by White House staff.

“Because the records contained in the White House Visitor logs are inconsistent with your statements to the Committee investigators on July 15, 2009, and because you did not satisfactorily reconcile your testimony with the visitor logs, there remain unanswered questions,” Issa wrote.  “Most importantly, on July 15, 2009, why did you fail to include Jackie Norris among those people whom you acknowledged having discussed CNCS business…in light of these records and the fact that Ms. Norris was transitioning from the White House to CNCS, it seems implausible that you would not remember your meetings with her.”

Issa added, “The White House announced on June 4, 2009 that Ms. Norris had been appointed Senior Advisor to the Corporation.  The White House was in the midst of deliberating action regarding Mr. Walpin.  According to a June 3, 2009 email you sent to the White House counsel Norman Eisen, CNCS had confirmed that another OIG employee was qualified under the VACANCIES Act to serve as Acting IG in Walpin’s place, and you provided Mr. Eisen with multiple personal contact numbers for Mr. Walpin in preparation for the notification that occurred seven days later on June 10, 2009.  In light of all this, it seems highly implausible that you would meet with Mr. Norris on June 9, 2009 and not discuss the IG.  Yet you claimed in your December 8, 2009, interview that you only discussed other CNCS business with her.  Because of these remaining questions, I am not able to conclude with any confidence that inappropriate political considerations did not play a part in Mr. Walpin’s removal.”