House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) on Tuesday blasted President Obama for suggesting the administration could fairly investigate claims the IRS unfairly targeted conservative political groups.
“How dare the administration imply that they’re going to get to the bottom of it,” said Issa in an interview on CBS’s “This Morning.”
“This was the targeting of the president’s political enemies effectively and lies about it during the election year so that it wasn’t discovered until afterwards,” he added. “The fact is this is the kind of investigation that has to be open and transparent to the American people.”
The IRS admitted last week that agents in a Cincinnati, Ohio, office had politically targeted conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status to higher scrutiny, including those with the words “Tea Party” and “patriot” in their names.
While the agency apologized for the missteps and IRS acting Commissioner Steven Miller in an op-ed Tuesday said that steps were taken to prevent a repeat of the errors, lawmakers and the White House have vowed to investigate the matter and find those responsible.
Obama at a press conference on Monday called the actions “outrageous.”
“If you've got the IRS operating in anything less than a neutral and nonpartisan way, then that is outrageous. It is contradictory to our traditions, and people have to be held accountable,” said the president.
But Issa said he had little faith the White House would handle the matter fairly and said the scope of the scandal was larger than the IRS or administration was willing to admit.
“Even today there are Tea Party groups that don’t have their approval. This process was deliberate, and it was repeated,” said Issa. “It was fixed once out of Washington. They went to Cincinnati, which is the national center of this, and then it turned around and did it for another five months. So this was a pervasive policy.”
Issa welcomed the decision by the Ways and Means Committee to hold hearings on the matter Friday and said an inspector general report to be released later this week would highlight the abusive practices.
“Congress has to hold people accountable for it. These were effectively ideological attacks. Whether they were done by partisans who were political appointees or not really doesn’t matter,” said Issa.
“They targeted conservatives. They targeted people who wanted to teach the Constitution or push for smaller government, which happens to be what our Founding Fathers wanted was a small federal government. So there’s a level of accountability there,” he added.