Congress has returned to Washington. We are gearing up for quite a week as the investigations continue into the various scandals plaguing the Obama administration.
Over the weekend, we learned new information on the IRS targeting of conservative groups. Here's the bottom line: The narrative that this was done by “rogue, low-level employees” has completely unraveled. In fact, as we learn more, it's almost insulting to think that this administration apparently thought that they could get away with this “rogue, low-level employees” lie. That's exactly what it was – a lie. As recently as last week, the administration continued to pedal this theory. We'll see in the days ahead when their story changes … again.
As the show gets under way today, there will be another hearing in the Oversight Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee. We will hear from the new Acting IRS Commissioner Dan Werfel and Robert George from the Inspector General's office.
New information released over the weekend includes partial interview transcripts from two employees within the Cincinnati office. According to Chairman Darrell Issa, 18 more transcribed interviews are in the works. The interviews were conducted by aides of the committee from both parties. One participant is said to be a low-level IRS employee while the other is higher ranking. Both names have been omitted at this time. The biggest headline to come of these excerpts so far is that direction to target conservative groups came from Washington. By early 2010, the Cincinnati office had already sent seven cases to Washington for review at Washington's request. You can read portions of the interviews (taken under oath) here. Here are a few highlights:
Q: So as of April 2010, these 40 cases were held at that moment in your group; is that right?
A: Some were.
Q: How many were held there?
A: Less than 40. Some went to Washington, D.C.
Q: Okay. How many went to Washington, D.C.?
A: I sent seven.
Q: So what do you think about this, that allegation has been made, I think as you have seen in lots of press reports, that there were two rogue agents in Cincinnati that are sort of responsible for all of the issues that we have been talking about today. What do you think about those allegations?
A: It's impossible. As an agent we are controlled by many, many people. We have to submit many, many reports. So the chance of two agents being rogue and doing things like that could never happen.
Q: But you specifically recall that the BOLO terms included "Tea Party?"
A: Yes, I do.
Q: And it was your understanding ‑‑ was it your understanding that the purpose of the BOLO was to identify Tea Party groups?
A: That is correct.
Q: Was it your understanding that the purpose of the BOLO was to identify conservative groups?
A: Yes, it was.
Q: Was it your understanding that the purpose of the BOLO was to identify Republican groups?
A: Yes, it was.
Basically what we are hearing is that employees were instructed by Washington DC to target conservative groups. This wasn't low-level employees in Cincinnati who decided to “go rogue.” They were asked to find information - to target - these groups. One of the IRS employees interviewed said that the administration's narrative of 'low-level employees' being responsible “basically [throws] us underneath the bus.” One of the agents was so uncomfortable with the requests coming from Washington that he/she applied for another job. The agent said, “It was the whole tea party. It was the whole picture … I mean, it was the micromanagement. The fact that the subject area was extremely sensitive and it was something that I didn't want to be associated with.”
According to CNN, “The Internal Revenue Service has told House GOP investigators they have identified 88 IRS employees who may have documents relevant to the congressional investigation into targeting of conservative groups, according to a congressional source familiar with the investigation.” In other words, they have a lot of information to dig through and people to talk to. This was not isolated; It was widespread.
Oh and by the way, some people are upset with Darrell Issa for calling Jay Carney a “paid liar” on one of the Sunday talk shows. Former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs says Issa should apologize. Well I'm sorry but either Jay Carney is lying to the press corps and the American people or this administration is keeping him woefully in the dark, sending him out there to look a fool. On the IRS story alone we've had five different versions of who knew what and when. At some point, someone knew the truth but didn't tell us. It's getting old and the American people deserve better. But Issa's comment clearly hit a nerve because it garnered a personal attack against Chairman Issa from Obama's former advisor David Plouffe, who referred back to a 40-year-old criminal incident as a means to discredit Issa's assertions.
Speaking of David Plouffe, over the weekend he told ABC’s “This Week” that “there was no politics involved in this,” and that the targeting of conservative groups “was not a political pursuit.” Luckily the other guest on the program was Karl Rove, who immediately called that a bunch of baloney. At this point, I don't even know if these people are trying to convince Americans so much as they are trying to convince themselves that this had nothing to do with politics. The very nature of the targeting had EVERYTHING to do with politics. That's the point.