Justice Department launches IRS probe

The Department of Justice is launching a probe into the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of Tea Party groups, Attorney General Eric Holder announced Tuesday.

“I have ordered an investigation to be begun. The FBI is coordinating with the Justice Department to see if any laws were broken in connection with those matters related to the IRS,” Holder said at a press conference.

Employees in the IRS’s Cincinnati office applied an additional level of scrutiny to Tea Party groups applying for tax exempt status. A number of lawmakers denounced the increased scrutiny and on Monday President Obama said, if true, the IRS's conduct was “outrageous.”

“Those were, I think as everyone can agree, if not criminal, they were certainly outrageous and unacceptable, but we are examining the facts to see if there were criminal violations,” Holder said.

A number of congressional panels including the Senate Finance Committee and the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations are planning hearings into the targeting.

White House press secretary Jay Carney, at a daily press briefing on Tuesday, without hesitation said the president and West Wing staff were not involved in the IRS's increased focus on Tea Party groups. When asked if he could rule out White House involvement, Carney said “yes.”