Russian banks should bear some economic penalties for Vladimir Putin’s government and President Barack Obama needs to push harder to get a tougher response from European nations, House Speaker John Boehner said.
“You go after their banks,” Boehner said on Fox News Channel’s “Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo” in an interview broadcast today. “I’m concerned that we’ve not pushed the Europeans hard enough to take a firmer line against the Russians. And our allies in the region are scared to death.”
While U.S. officials have discussed targeting sectors of the Russian economy, such as energy and finance, they have so far only sanctioned 45 individuals and 19 entities, including SMP Bank and Bank Rossiya. The European Union is preparing to punish Russian companies that expropriated assets in Crimea, and may approve a list early next week, EU officials said.
“What Putin is doing is making the world less safe, and certainly making Europe less safe,” Boehner said.
Boehner also said the House select committee created May 9 to investigate the 2012 attacks that killed four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, and the administration’s response, would get all relevant documents that other panels have obtained during separate studies of the assaults. Costs for the panel will be covered by the House budget, said Boehner, an Ohio Republican.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, has said Democrats may boycott the panel.
Representative Trey Gowdy, a South Carolina Republican whom Boehner appointed to lead the Benghazi committee, said on “Fox News Sunday” that he’ll work with Democrats while pursuing an “exhaustive” investigation.
“I don’t run my committees the way the Democrats are fearful of,” Gowdy said. “I have no friends to reward or foes to punish.”
Representative Xavier Becerra from California, head of the House Democratic Caucus, said on the same program that Democrats would appoint members to the select committee once they were satisfied with the ground rules.
“We’ve always said that we are ready to participate,” Becerra said on the same program. “What we don’t want to see is reckless and irresponsible use of taxpayer money to do these witch hunts.”
Some Democrats say the committee is a political exercise aimed in part at weakening Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state at the time of the attacks and a potential Democratic presidential candidate in 2016.
On scrutiny of the Internal Revenue Service and its handling of Tea Party groups, Boehner said it’s up to Attorney General Eric Holder to assign a prosecutor to investigate former official Lois Lerner. The House on May 8 voted to hold Lerner in contempt of Congress for refusing to answer questions about her role in the agency’s audits of the groups.
Boehner said he wouldn’t seek to use a provision in the Constitution to arrest Lerner.
“It’s never been used and I’m not sure that it’s an appropriate way to go about this,” he said.