GOP knocks IRS chief for 30-day report

Ways and Means Republicans also pressed Werfel over his suggestion that the IRS needed more funding, in a sign that the acting IRS leader’s honeymoon with the GOP is over just over a month after he took the job.

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In his response to Republicans, Werfel stressed that both the Justice Department and Treasury’s inspector general for tax administration were investigating the matter, and that he didn’t want to step on any criminal probes. The acting IRS chief also stressed that his review, conducted over his first month on the job, was not meant to be the final take on the IRS’s targeting of Tea Party groups.

“I've been asked by the Justice Department and the inspector general to enable them to do the interviews, to ask all the thorough questions to get to the bottom of this, because that will make sure that if there is a prosecutorial action that needs to be taken that it will be clean, and the evidence chain will be clean,” Werfel said.

“So the notion that no witnesses are being interviewed is not accurate. The accurate answer is that witnesses are being interviewed whether I am personally sitting across the table or not, from interviewing. I would love to be able to.”

For their part, Democrats defended Werfel, as they also continued to raise questions about the Treasury audit that outlined the targeting.

Democrats are calling for Russell George, the tax administration inspector general, to come back for more testimony, saying that the IG is only now acknowledging that progressive groups were on IRS watch lists and included in the list of almost 300 groups studied for the audit.

“You've been at the center of a firestorm, as has the whole agency. And the IRS has made attempts to address the criticisms and meet the challenges that face us,” Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash) told Werfel. “The IRS has a difficult and almost impossible and thankless job. It's the agency easiest to dislike and easiest to throw under the bus.”

But Republicans were having none of it. Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) accused Werfel of using the need to protect taxpayer information as an excuse for not handing over information requested for the committee’s investigation.

Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), meanwhile, called Werfel’s report a “sham.”

“I would call it a whitewash, but it's too thin and unsubstantial to even meet that description,” Brady said.