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Sen. Portman: IRS will need special counsel

Interview begins at 0:33 second mark.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) on Sunday said he believed a special counsel to investigate the IRS targeting scandal would ultimately be “necessary."

Speaking on ABC’s “This Week,” Portman welcomed an inspector general’s report and the launch of congressional hearings, but said there were still many unanswered questions.

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“I also think that special counsel is going to end up being necessary here, because it has to be independent of the White House,” said Portman of the ongoing investigation.

“What we do know is that politics was put ahead of the public interest. And it was done in two of the most sensitive areas of our government. One, of course, the tax collection agency, which has this enormous power over all of us. And second, our national security,” said Portman referring to the Justice Department’s seizure of journalists’ phone records in a leak probe.

“There's a lot of issues here we need to get bottom of. We need to find out what really happened and ensure that we can begin to regain some trust in our government. That's my concern,” he added.


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But other lawmakers expressed caution, saying that Congress needed more time to gather facts.

Fellow GOP lawmaker, Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), said that while the IRS actions were “chilling” it was still “premature” to say whether a special counsel would be needed.

“I do believe that the committees of jurisdiction in the House and in the Senate need to continue their investigation and determine exactly who made these decisions,” said Price, also appearing on ABC.

The IRS admitted to subjecting Tea Party groups seeking tax exempt status to higher scrutiny. The announcement led to criticism from both parties, with Obama requesting and accepting the resignation of the acting director of the IRS last week.


GOP lawmakers have pledged to find out if the political targeting was directed by anyone at the White House.

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), however, said he did not see a need yet for a special counsel.

Menendez said that the law governing tax-exempt status should be the real focus of Congress.

“I think there are two scandals here.  And clearly what the IRS did in this regard is absolutely wrong and it's outrageous. It's a lack of management,” he said.

“But there's second scandal, and that fact is, is that hundreds of millions of dollars had been used in C-4s that are supposed to be used a nonprofit social welfare entities for political purposes,” Menendez added.

Senior Obama adviser Dan Pfeiffer on Sunday said no one at the White House knew of the IRS targeting beforehand and vowed the president would investigate the scandal thoroughly.

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