The IRS scandal is heating up to a serious temperature. Interviews with a regional IRS agent involved in the agency targeting Tea Party groups for additional scrutiny contradict the White House assertion that “so-called” rogue agents, and not the Obama administration, were behind the effort. Partial transcripts were released Sunday by the House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee, which show just that.
The agent in the Cincinnati office, in which much of the targeting took place, told congressional investigators that he or she was told in March of 2010 by a supervisor to seek out Tea Party groups applying for tax-exempt status and that “Washington, D.C., wanted some cases,” and we all know what that means.
The agent stated that by April the Cincinnati office had held up approximately 40 cases, and at least seven of these cases were sent to Washington, DC. Furthermore, the agent said that a second IRS employee asked for information on two other specific applicants in which Washington was interested.
When asked by congressional investigators about the Obama administrations allegations and mainstream media press reports stating how two agents in Cincinnati being responsible for the targeting, the agent answered:
It’s impossible. As an agent we are controlled by many, many people. We have to submit many, many reports. So the chance of two agents being rogue and doing things like that could never happen. … They were basically throwing us underneath the bus.
The administration, just as they have with the other scandals, has denied involvement in the targeting, and has repeatedly claimed that it was limited to only the two Cincinnati agents.
White House Press Secretary, Jay Carney, has been giving conflicting statements on the scandal. For instance, whether top White House officials knew only of the inspector general’s probe into the targeting of politically conservative groups or if they were told about the bombshell findings when briefed in late April.
Carney also said the top officials decided not to tell President Obama to avoid any possibility of the White House interfering in the investigation.
On Sunday, California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Affair Committee, accused Carney of being untruthful about the scandal.
Their paid liar, their spokesperson … he’s still making up things about what happened and calling this a local rogue.
The congressman also provided the network with a copy of the transcript in which the agent said he or she followed directions from Washington. However, when asked if the Tea Party scrutiny came directly from Washington the agency said “I believe so.” He added:
My gut tells me that too many people knew this wrongdoing was going on before the election, and at least by some sort of convenient, benign neglect, allowed it to go on through the election,” he said. “I’m not making any allegations as to motive, that they set out to do it, but certainly people knew it was happening.
Officials have also said the targeting was not politically motivated though it appeared to last until nearly the end of the 2012 election cycle and did not appear to target liberal-leaning political groups.
It seems Democratic outrage had a rather short shelf-life. Rep. Elijah Cummings, ranking member on the House oversight committee, described Issa’s remarks based on the interviews as “reckless” and “unsubstantiated,” and rebutted:
Chairman Issa’s reckless statements today are inconsistent with the findings of the Inspector General, who spent more than a year conducting his investigation. Rather than lobbing unsubstantiated conclusions on national television for political reasons, we need to work in a bipartisan way to follow the facts where they lead and ensure that the IG’s recommendations are fully implemented.
Commentary from the Blogger:
The interviews point to the conclusion that this targeting was directed from Washington, and only one question remains. Where the requests to target conservative groups coming out of Congress stemming from constituency complaints – really what are the odds of that – or did it come from the White House getting Congressional Democrats to do their dirty work. This certainly would not be the first time that the Obama administration used either Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi, or both, to get an agenda pushed through. One thing is for sure: the interviews clearly suggest that Congressional members had requested IRS attention to these matters, and if the Republicans were not pushing for IRS action, then it was the Democrats – period:
As a precautionary measure, the IRS is casting a wide net to capture any potentially related materials. Our goal is to be exceedingly thorough during this process to ensure we identify any and all pertinent records. The IRS has received numerous congressional requests involving an extensive set of questions and calls for data. Responding to these requests is a top priority for us. We have been in contact with committee staff, and we continue to provide them updates as we diligently work through these requests.
Read the excerpts below:
One Cincinnati IRS employee interviewed by the Oversight Committee rejects the White House assertion (that the Cincinnati office was responsible) and points to Washington as being responsible for targeting effort (from 5/30 interview):
Q In early 2010, was there a time when you became aware of applications that referenced Tea Party or other conservative groups?
A In March of 2010, I was made aware.
Q Okay. Now, was there a point around this time period when [your supervisor] asked you to do a search for similar applications?
Q To the best of your recollection, when was this request made?
A Sometime in early March of 2010.
Q Did [your supervisor] give you any indication of the need for the search, any more context?
A He told me that Washington, D.C., wanted some cases.
Q So as of April 2010, these 40 cases were held at that moment in your group; is that right?
A Some were.
Q How many were held there?
A Less than 40. Some went to Washington, D.C.
Q Okay. How many went to Washington, D.C.?
A I sent seven.
Q So you prepared seven hard copy versions of the applications to go to Washington, D.C.?
Q Did he give you any sort of indication as to why he requested you to do that?
A He said Washington, D.C. wanted seven. Because at one point I believe I heard they were thinking 10, but it came down to seven. I said okay, seven.
Q How did you decide which seven were sent?
A Just the first seven.
Q The first seven to come into the system?
Q Did anyone else ever make a request that you send any cases to Washington?
A [Different IRS employee] wanted to have two cases that she couldn’t ¬¬ Washington, D.C. wanted them, but she couldn’t find the paper. So she requested me, through an email, to find these cases for her and to send them to Washington, D.C.
Q When was this, what time frame?
A I don’t recall the time frame, maybe May of 2010.
Q But just to be clear, she told you the specific names of these applicants.
Q And she told you that Washington, D.C. had requested these two specific applications be sent to D.C.
A Yes, or parts of them.
Q Okay. So she asked you to send particular parts of these applications.
Q And that was unusual. Did you say that?
Q And she indicated that Washington had requested these specific parts of these specific applications; is that right?
Q So what do you think about this, that allegation has been made, I think as you have seen in lots of press reports, that there were two rogue agents in Cincinnati that are sort of responsible for all of the issues that we have been talking about today. What do you think about those allegations?
A It’s impossible. As an agent we are controlled by many, many people. We have to submit many, many reports. So the chance of two agents being rogue and doing things like that could never happen.
Q And you’ve heard, I’m sure, news reports about individuals here in Washington saying this is a problem that was originated in and contained in the Cincinnati office, and that it was the Cincinnati office that was at fault. What is your reaction to those types of stories?
A Well, it’s hard to answer the question because in my mind I still hear people saying we were low¬level employees, so we were lower than dirt, according to people in D.C. So, take it for what it is. They were basically throwing us underneath the bus.
Q So is it your perspective that ultimately the responsible parties for the decisions that were reported by the IG are not in the Cincinnati office?
A I don’t know how to answer that question. I mean, from an agent standpoint, we didn’t do anything wrong. We followed directions based on other people telling us what to do.
Q And you ultimately followed directions from Washington; is that correct?
A If direction had come down from Washington, yes.
Q But with respect to the particular scrutiny that was given to Tea Party applications, those directions emanated from Washington; is that right?
A I believe so.
And another more senior IRS Cincinnati employee complained about micromanagement from D.C.:
Q But you specifically recall that the BOLO terms included “Tea Party?”
A Yes, I do.
Q And it was your understanding ¬¬ was it your understanding that the purpose of the BOLO was to identify Tea Party groups?
A That is correct.
Q Was it your understanding that the purpose of the BOLO was to identify conservative groups?
A Yes, it was.
Q Was it your understanding that the purpose of the BOLO was to identify Republican groups?
A Yes, it was.
Q Earlier I believe you informed us that the primary reason for applying for another job in July  was because of the micromanagement from [Washington, DC, IRS Attorney], is that correct?
A Right. It was the whole Tea Party. It was the whole picture. I mean, it was the micromanagement. The fact that the subject area was extremely sensitive and it was something that I didn’t want to be associated with.
Q Why didn’t you want to be associated with it?
A For what happened now. I mean, rogue agent? Even though I was taking all my direction from EO Technical, I didn’t want my name in the paper for being this rogue agent for a project I had no control over.
Q Did you think there was something inappropriate about what was happening in 2010?
A Yes. The inappropriateness was not processing these applications fairly and timely.
Q You have stated you had concerns with the fairness and the timeliness of the application process. Did you have concerns with just the fact that these cases were grouped together and you were the only one handling them?
A I was the only one handling the Tea Party’s, that is correct.
Q Did that specifically cause you concern?
A Yes, it did. And I was the only person handling them.
Q Were you concerned that you didn’t have the capacity to process all of the applications in a timely manner?
A That is correct. And it is just ¬¬ I mean, like you brought up, the micromanagement, the fact that the topic was just weirdly handled was a huge concern to me.