GOP: Treasury impeding IRS investigation

A top House Republican accused the Treasury Department on Wednesday of impeding the congressional inquiry into the IRS’s Tea Party issue by not allowing investigators access to a key department lawyer.

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House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) said the Treasury counsel, Hannah Stott-Bumsted, appears to have been the first department aide to learn that the IRS couldn’t find a number of emails from Lois Lerner. Lerner was the IRS official at the center of the agency's improper targeting of Tea Party groups seeking tax exempt status.

But Camp now says that Treasury officials won’t make Stott-Bumsted available until at least after the election, even though he first requested an interview with her more than five weeks ago.

“This is completely unacceptable, especially for an administration that once pledged to be the most open and transparent ever,” Camp wrote to Treasury Secretary Jack LewJacob (Jack) Joseph LewApple just saved billion in tax — but can the tax system be saved? Lobbying World Russian sanctions will boomerang MORE on Wednesday.

A Treasury spokeswoman on Wednesday said there’s no evidence anyone at the department was involved in the screening of Tea Party applications or that Lois Lerner talked to anyone at Treasury about them.

“Nonetheless, Treasury is committed to continuing to cooperate with Congress and has been working with the committee to address this specific request,” the spokeswoman said.

Treasury also told lawmakers in June that it found out that some of Lerner’s emails couldn’t be found in April. The department said that it left the decision of when to tell lawmakers up to the IRS, but that it agreed that the tax agency should wait until it had enough information to fully brief Congress.

The IRS acknowledged in June that Lerner’s computer crashed in 2011, leaving them unable to recover any of her emails dating back to 2009. Lerner first apologized in May 2013 for the Tea Party issue, and reports of her missing emails gave a jolt to congressional investigations into the IRS.

GOP lawmakers have been angry for months that the IRS took so long to disclose the missing emails, and that the agency told the White House before informing Congress. John Koskinen, the IRS commissioner, has said the agency waited so it could give lawmakers as full a picture as possible. 

Camp said Wednesday that Stott-Bumsted could “unlock the mystery” about when the White House learned about the Tea Party issue. He said that the Treasury Department’s unwillingness to make her available was just the latest sign that the Obama administration was being uncooperative with investigators.

In his letter to Lew, Camp said that Treasury Department officials asked what sort of information Ways and Means was seeking from Stott-Bumsted, but didn’t immediately object to the interview request. Two weeks later, Camp said, the department said that it had concerns about Ways and Means interviewing a Treasury Department lawyer. It said that Stott-Bumsted wouldn’t be available until November and that it proposed to address the committee’s concerns in a letter.  

“The committee has already interviewed 15 Treasury lawyers in the course of its investigation. Why the sudden change in Department protocol?” Camp wrote to Lew, later adding: “A written response, in what would be two months after the initial request, is not a satisfactory substitute for a transcribed interview.”

Democrats have made the case that there’s not much of the mystery left to unlock, and that months of investigation have found no evidence that the White House was involved or that the IRS scrutiny was politically motivated. The IRS has given congressional investigators hundreds of thousands of pages of documents, and dozens of staffers have been interviewed by congressional panels. 

— This story was updated of 6:36 p.m.