Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA) , who has called the Obama administration “one of the most corrupt” in history, has been working overtime in recent weeks in an attempt to prove his charge, even if it means he has to manipulate the evidence to do so.
Issa chairs the powerful House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and as such has been the GOP point man on the IRS scandal that has been making news in recent weeks. In case you have been away, here’s a summary: An IRS Inspector General report revealed last month that the agency had improperly targeted conservative groups for extra scrutiny when they applied for tax exempt status if they had political sounding names, such as “Tea Party,” or “Patriot.” Republicans in congress were immediately convinced that this scrutiny was ordered by the White House, and they set out to prove they were correct.
After interviewing various IRS officials involved, Chairman Issa began a “death by a thousand cuts” strategy, releasing selected portions of the transcripts that he felt proved that the operation was directed, or at least ordered, by someone connected to the White House. This cherry picking of the record angered Representative Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the ranking Democrat on the committee, who called for Issa to release the entire transcripts. After allowing Issa to ignore his request for several days, yesterday Cummings released over 200 pages of interview transcripts himself.
Although I fundamentally disagree with the unsubstantiated claims you have made about the IRS matter being driven by the White House to attack the President’s political enemies, I wanted to give you appropriate deference in conducting Committee investigations. I hoped we could focus on a bipartisan approach that maximizes transparency and accuracy, but your staff refused several follow-up requests to meet with my staff on this issue.
Issa, who has repeatedly tried without success to implicate the White House in some sort of wrongdoing, responded by saying in a statement
After unsuccessfully trying to convince the American people that IRS officials in Washington did not play a role in inappropriate scrutiny of Tea Party groups and declaring on national television that the case of IRS targeting was ‘solved’ and Congress should ‘move on,’ this looks like flailing. Americans who think Congress should investigate IRS misconduct should be outraged by Mr. Cummings’ efforts to obstruct needed oversight.
In the transcripts released by Cummings the IRS employee who indicates that the targeting started with low-level employees in the Cincinnati IRS office also identifies himself as a conservative Republican. He also testified that no one in Washington or at the White House directed the investigation. From page 141 of Cummings’ transcripts:
Q: Do you have any reason to believe that anyone in the White House was involved in the decision to screen Tea Party cases?
A: I have no reason to believe that.
Q: Do you have any reason to believe that anyone in the White House was involved in the decision to centralize the review of Tea Party cases?
A: I have no reason to believe that.
Once again we witness the slow death of another Republican manufactured “scandal.” Issa claims that the release of the full transcripts will permit IRS employees to figure out ways to “navigate investigative interviews” with congress in the future. But in reality his anger is likely due to the fact that the transcripts prove that there is no substance to his charges against the Obama administration, and that he has manipulated the information that the public has been allowed to see in order to further his political witch hunt.