Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Monday said he had seen “no evidence” that the White House ordered the Internal Revenue Service to target conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.
“I don't think it's a localized issue," he added. "I think it was a coordinated effort by some people to silence conservative critics of the president — that's pretty clear. How far it went, we don't know."
Graham was asked whom he believed benefited the most from the tougher scrutiny on Tea Party groups.
"I think the people who benefit the most are the ones trying to reelect the president," he responded.
Graham’s comments came a day after House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif) said that initial interviews of IRS employees at the agency’s Cincinnati office had revealed that the targeting of Tea Party groups had been “directly ordered from Washington.”
"This is a problem that was coordinated, in all likelihood, right out of Washington headquarters. We have subpoenaed documents that would support that,” said Issa on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Lawmakers are investigating the IRS scandal to determine who authorized the use of higher scrutiny against Tea Party groups seeking tax-exempt status, and when senior officials at the White House and Treasury first learned about the practice.
Issa also blasted White House spokesman Jay Carney as a “paid liar.”
Earlier on Monday, Graham’s GOP colleague Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) declined to endorse those remarks, calling for congressional investigations to proceed.
"I never like to use that word," McCain said in an interview on CBS's "This Morning." "I think that we should let these investigations take their course, let the facts come out."