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Gibbs: Issa charges against IRS ‘shameful,’ owes agency apology

Former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs on Monday pushed back at House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa’s (R-Calif.) claims that top officials from the IRS’s Washington, D.C., office directed the targeting of conservative groups, calling the allegations unsubstantiated and “shameful.”

“Republicans are on the verge of overplaying their hand publicly, and the American people will quickly lose interest on their side in this,” Gibbs said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “They want to see the IRS cleaned up, but they understand that Darrell Issa is doing nothing more than politicizing this event. To throw around the words ‘liar’ and ‘perjury’ as easily as he did is shameful.”

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Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, Issa said his panel had conducted interviews with IRS workers in the Cincinnati office that revealed “they were being 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,” Issa said.

On Monday, Gibbs shot back, saying that Issa should make the interviews public if they exist or apologize to the IRS staffers for his charges.

“If he’s got information that these people lied, he should put it out there today,” Gibbs said. “If he doesn’t have information that they lied, then he should call each of them up personally and apologize, because this kind of discourse is why people lose confidence in their institutions.”

“This is why people tune out from the back and forth in Washington because people throw around terms like this, and then in the next sentence, they can’t even say with 100 percent authority that what they said the minute before or 10 seconds before is actually true,” he added.

The House Oversight Committee is interviewing employees from the Cincinnati office, which was in charge of reviewing applications from groups seeking tax-exempt status. Last month, the IRS apologized after it disclosed that some workers in that office had applied more rigorous standards to applications from conservative groups.

Gibbs’s comments echo those made by Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.), the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, over the weekend.

“So far, no witnesses who have appeared before the Committee have identified any IRS official in Washington DC who directed employees in Cincinnati to use ‘tea party’ or similar terms to screen applicants for extra scrutiny,” Cummings said in a statement. “Chairman Issa’s reckless statements today are inconsistent with the findings of the Inspector General, who spent more than a year conducting his investigation.”