by Wynton Hall 18 Dec 2013, 9:00 AM PDT
The White House and the Health and Human Services (HHS) Department claim President Barack Obama and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius held “countless” one-on-one private meetings to work together on Obamacare.
They have, however, stonewalled requests by reporters to release the dates of the alleged and undocumented meetings--none of which appear on the official White House calendar.
On Tuesday, Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) sent Sebelius a letter requesting a detailed list of the days she alleges to have met privately with Obama and blasting her "lack of transparency and disregard for straight answers."
The reason for Obama and Sebelius's obfuscation over the President's level of executive leadership, oversight, and management of the Obamacare debacle is simple. If the Obama administration’s list of alleged one-on-one meetings between Obama and Sebelius contains a single meeting between April 4, 2013, and October 1, 2013, the White House is in danger of revealing President Obama to have been dishonest during his now-infamous November 14, 2013, press conference wherein he uttered this curiously worded phrase:
I was not informed directly [emphasis added] that the website would not be working as—the way it was supposed to. Had I been informed, I wouldn’t be going out saying, ‘Boy, this is going to be great.’ You know, I’m accused of a lot of things, but I don’t think I’m stupid enough to go around saying, ‘this is going to be like shopping on Amazon or Travelocity,’ a week before the website opens, if I thought that it wasn’t going to work. So, clearly, we and I did not have enough awareness about the problems in the website.
The timeline below chronicles that the administration knew months before HealthCare.gov’s disastrous October 1 rollout that critical problems existed, and it is riddled with embarrassing statements and mistakes that raise serious questions about what Obama knew and when he knew it.
With Obama’s trustworthiness, credibility, and approval ratings now nosediving, the White House and Democrats cannot afford further erosion of the public's perception of Obama's leadership, especially among independent voters who weigh effectiveness traits more heavily than ideological positions. How voters judge Obama’s performance as the chief executive tasked with leading and managing his signature legislative achievement, Obamacare, will have dramatic consequences on the outcome of the 2014 midterm elections.
March 23, 2010: President Barack Obama signs the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) into law.
April 4, 2013: According to a 15-page McKinsey & Co. document obtained by the Energy and Commerce Committee, Secretary Sebelius, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Marilyn Tavenner, and others are warned in a briefing that an ideal situation would be “end-to-end integrated operations and IT testing,” but that the situation at the time was one with “insufficient time and scope of end-to-end testing.” The document also cautions that a “limited initial launch” would be ideal, but that a “launch at full volume” was, instead, the plan, reported NBC News.
April 18, 2013: In committee testimony, Secretary Sebelius fails to mention the April 4 warnings from McKinsey & Co. Instead, she promises: “We are on track and the contracts have been led and we are monitoring it every step along the way… I can tell you we are on track.”
July 16, 2013: Healthcare.gov Manager Henry Chao states in an email to CMS officials his low level of confidence in contractor work, saying, “I just need to feel more confident they are not going to crash the plane at take-off.”
August 6, 2013: Amid concerns that HealthCare.gov’s SHOP small business marketplace may be delayed, CMS Office of Information Services Director Monique Outerbridge sends officials an email that reads: “Guys, this is absolutely urgent and I need an answer on this today. If this is late we have to public [sic] announce we are late with a deliverable which means [CMS Adminstrator] Marilyn Tavenner and the Secretary will have to announce.”
September 30, 2013: According to the New York Times, documents released by House investigators reveal that “the ‘testing bulletin’ suggested the website as of Sept. 30 could handle only about 1,100 users at a time, even though officials had said it should have been able to accommodate perhaps as many as 60,000.”
October 1, 2013: The $630 million HealthCare.gov online insurance marketplace goes live and crashes minutes after launch.
October 13, 2013: White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough adds a nightly 7 o’clock meeting in his office to demand updates. According to the New York Times, "For weeks, aides to Ms. Sebelius had expressed frustration with Mr. McDonough, mocking his 'countdown calendar,' which they viewed as micromanagement."
October 22, 2013: In a CNN interview with Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Secretary Sebelius claims that the first time President Obama learned of the Healthcare.gov problems was “the first couple of days” after the site went live on Oct. 1, 2013. “But not before that?” Dr. Gupta followed up. “No, sir,” said Sebelius.
November 14, 2013: President Barack Obama claims in a White House press conference: “I was not informed directly that the website would not be working as—the way it was supposed to. Had I been informed, I wouldn’t be going out saying, ‘Boy, this is going to be great.’ You know, I’m accused of a lot of things, but I don’t think I’m stupid enough to go around saying, ‘this is going to be like shopping on Amazon or Travelocity,’ a week before the website opens, if I thought that it wasn’t going to work. So, clearly, we and I did not have enough awareness about the problems in the website.”
November 29, 2013: President Obama says in an ABC News interview with Barbara Walters, “We’re evaluating why it is exactly that I didn’t know soon enough that it wasn’t going to work the way it needed to. But my priority now has been to just make sure that it works.”
December 4, 2013: GAI President Peter Schweizer appears on Hannity to announce the findings of the GAI's forthcoming report on President Obama and Sec. Sebelius's lack of one-on-one meetings in the years leading up to the launch of HealthCare.gov.
December 5, 2013: Politico Magazine publishes an article by Government Accountability Institute President Peter Schweizer highlighting the GAI's study that found the White House’s official calendar lists zero one-on-one meetings between President Obama and Sec. Sebelius from July 12, 2010, to Nov. 30, 2013 (the full range of dates available on the calendar), and that Obama met 277 times during that period with other Cabinet secretaries. The GAI study also analyzed the Politico presidential calendar and found a single recorded meeting on April 21, 2010, which also included then-Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.
December 6, 2013: HHS Spokesperson Joanne Peters claims in a statement: “Secretary Sebelius has been to the White House countless times since becoming Secretary. She is frequently at the White House for meetings related to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, including dozens with the President in the last year alone. In fact, she met with the President just yesterday.”
Also on December 6, NBC News reporter Peter Alexander asks White House Press Secretary Jay Carney whether the GAI’s report “draws some questions about the president's leadership skills as the chief executive.” Carney claims the GAI report “is based on a ridiculously false premise.” ABC News reporter Jonathan Karl then followed up with two additional questions on the GAI’s report. Carney says that “Cabinet secretaries don’t regularly get entered into the White House visitors logs, [though] they come frequently. Kathleen Sebelius comes frequently, and she meets frequently with the President.” Carney added that it is “safe to say Kathleen Sebelius has been one of the more frequent attendees to meetings with the President.”
GAI President Peter Schweizer offers the following response in a Politico Magazine update:
The White House’s response to the GAI calendar investigation is absurd and alarming.
Press Secretary Jay Carney said Friday, “Cabinet secretaries don’t regularly get entered into the visitor logs.” The GAI report was not based on visitor logs; it was based on the White House’s own calendar and the POLITICO presidential calendar.
Obama's calendar lists 277 one-on-one meetings between the president and his other Cabinet secretaries, including 73 with former Secretary Clinton and 57 with former Secretary Geithner. If, as Carney claims, Secretary Sebelius “is here a lot and meets with the president with regularity,” why aren’t they listed? How many meetings took place and when did they occur? Carney said he doesn’t know.
And if Obama and Sebelius worked together closely and regularly, why did the president publicly state he did not know about the problems with HealthCare.gov?
In the name of transparency, Americans deserve to know how much time President Obama personally spent over three-and-a-half years leading, managing and working alongside Secretary Sebelius on his signature achievement.
December 7, 2013: On CNN’s Newsroom, David Gergen, former counselor to four U.S. presidents, including Pres. Clinton, discusses the GAI report and says, "I don’t think this is simply sloppiness on the part of the White House. What seems to me is there’s a case of near malfeasance here,” and he called the revelation a big deal. “The fact that he was not meeting with her one-on-one, I think, frankly, is not so much an indictment of her but of the White House operation," he said. Gergen also said that "at the same time three years pass with no one-on-one meetings according to this Politico article, the President had 277 one-on-one meetings with other members of his cabinet.”
December 11, 2013: Secretary Kathleen Sebelius appears to testify before the House Energy and Commerce
Committee. When Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) asks Sebelius about her one-on-one meetings with Obama, the HHS Secretary appears flustered:
"How many times did you actually visit with the President since 2009 or 2010 when you came on board?" asked Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA), who is also a medical doctor. "How many personal visits did you have with him at the White House regarding the Affordable Care Act?"
"A lot," said Sebelius.
"Can you verify that?" asked Gingrey.
The chair then said, "The Gentleman's time has expired."
"I, I...," a flustered Sebelius said while raising her hands in the air.
Following the hearing, Rep. Gingrey tells Breitbart News that Sebelius’s “evasiveness” and her inability “to answer basic questions” have prompted him to ask Sebelius to settle the issue once and for all and to tell Sebelius to turn over the precise dates of the “countless” one-on-one meetings she claims to have had with Obama in the over three-and-a-half years leading up to Obamacare’s disastrous launch.
That evening, Fox News host Sean Hannity asks Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) the following: “Have we been able to confirm if they had any meetings since 2010?”
“Not to my knowledge. No. Look, this is inexcusable,” said Lee. “This is absolutely unpardonable, the fact that there was this little oversight going on in the launching of this significant an enterprise—an enterprise in which the government is very ill equipped to act.”
December 17, 2013: Rep. Phil Gingrey sends Sebelius a letter requesting a list of the dates she alleges to have met with President Obama--dates that do not appear on the White House's official calendar.
ABC News, FOX News, NBC News, CNN, Politico Magazine, Breitbart News, TIME, Washington Post, Daily Caller, TownHall, Kansas City Star, NewsMax, and other media outlets have all covered the Government Accountability Institute’s (GAI) report showing that the White House calendar and Politico presidential calendar list just a single one-on-one meeting between President Barack Obama and Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius from the day Obamacare was signed into law (March 23, 2010) to November 30, 2013.
Yet, to date, neither the White House nor HHS have released the “countless” dates during which each claims Obama and Sebelius held one-on-one meetings over three-and-a-half years of work on Obamacare, a program that affects one-sixth of the U.S. economy and will cost taxpayers $2.6 trillion over the next decade.