Dems charge Issa with politicizing IRS fight

House Democrats on Thursday pushed back on Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa’s assertions that he never tried to tie the IRS controversy to the White House.

Ranking member Elijah Cummings (Md.) and Rep. Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward ConnollyLawmakers, media serve up laughs at annual 'Will on the Hill' Overnight Energy: Trump praises Pruitt for doing 'great job' | Lawmakers want criminal probe of Pruitt | Heckler brings lotion bottle to Pruitt speech Lawmakers call for criminal investigation into EPA chief MORE (D-Va.) noted that Issa had said “this was a targeting of the president’s political enemies.”

“Republican politicians and commentators have engaged in a sustained and coordinated campaign to accuse the president and the White House of using the IRS to target Tea Party groups for partisan political purposes — without any evidence to support their claims,” Cummings said in his opening statement at Thursday's hearing.

Democrats on the panel have accused the GOP this week of wrongly linking the targeting of Tea Party groups to the White House and overly politicizing the issue in general.

For his part, Issa (R-Calif.) compared Cummings’s repeated assertions that the GOP had tried to connect the targeting to the White House to a child who got his hand stuck in the cookie jar. “I’ve never said that it leads to the White House,” Issa said.

After Connolly brought up his comments, Issa said he thought the statement was fair, noting that Tea Party groups have long asserted that President Obama had overstepped his constitutional boundaries.

“Yes, they are enemies of the president’s politics,” Issa said. “I stand by that.”

Republicans on the panel also criticized Cummings’s repeated insistence that the White House wasn’t involved in the targeting.

“As if that’s the new standard for propriety in this town,” said Rep. Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyTop House Dem claims Judiciary chairman's DOJ, FBI subpoena is invalid The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — GOP lawmakers race to find an immigration fix Republicans tear into IG finding on Clinton probe MORE (R-S.C.). “That at least the White House directly didn’t know about it.”

Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio), for instance, suggested that neither Carter Hull nor Elizabeth Hofacre, the two IRS staffers testifying, would have any knowledge either way about White House involvement. Cummings had asked the Hofacre and Hull whether they had heard from the White House about the processing of tax-exempt applications.

“Asking questions that we know you’re not here to prove or have information about really is irrelevant to our discussion,” Turner said.

GOP members of the panel panned the ranking member’s statement last month that the IRS case had been solved, an assertion that Cummings later softened.

--This report was updated at 2:32 p.m.