On MSNBC’s Morning Joe Thursday morning, panelist John Heilemann got into a heated argument with GOP Chairman Reince Priebus over President Obama’s role in the targeting of conservative groups applying for 501(c)4 status. Priebus offered a series of comments trying to tie Obama to the scandal — which Republicans have attempted to frame the IRS scandal as Obama’s ‘Watergate’ moment — leading Heilemann to shout “that’s an assertion that’s not actually borne out by any of the facts”:
HEILEMANN: Okay. You used two phrases just now saying we have to wait for the facts but I’m entitled to my opinion and before we have the facts just wait. You then said it’s lawlessness and guerrilla warfare and Obama is in the middle of it. You say we need to have all of the facts before we can determine whether President Obama is in the middle of it and now you’re asserting the fact he’s in the middle of it. That is your public tweet.
PRIEBUS: I would say it is consistent. When I start out an investigation and say it’s low level employees in Cincinnati and then you find out there are senior level people in Washington. Then Pfeiffer goes on five Sunday morning shows and says the White House didn’t know anything about this and two days later you figure out that the chief of staff actually knew about it. You have a hundred and, what? 15 visits from Shulman to the White House and 132 Democratic senators pleading with the IRS to investigate this. And the Chief of Staff of the White House is now involved or at least knew about it when — two days earlier Pfeiffer said they didn’t know about it.
HEILEMANN: I thought you said you have the facts you need. If you don’t have the facts you need why are you saying he’s in the middle of it?
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has also tried to tie Obama’s name to the IRS scandal, though unsuccessfully. An Investigator General’s report on the case found no indication that the targeting of certain 501(c)4 groups was part of a larger political strategy.