House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI) sought to implicate the White House in the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) targeting of conservative groups applying for 501(c)(4) status during an appearance on CBS’s Face The Nation on Sunday, suggesting that senior government officials may have engaged in “criminal behavior.”
But when host Bob Schieffer challenged Rogers to substantiate his allegations, the Michigan congressman appeared to back down, admitting that he has no actual evidence to suggest that administration officials were involved in the effort:
SCHIEFFER: We were talking about this big story of has the National Security Agency over-reached? What is your take, Mr. Chairman? Do you think the government’s done anything wrong here at this point?
ROGERS: It depends what you’re talking about. When you’re talking about the IRS and Benghazi, I think there were misdeeds and maybe criminal behavior. When you’re talking about the NSA issue, the sheer volume of oversight– and we’ve gone back and reviewed ever bit of it it’s fact that the court ordered, the court reviews it every 10 days, especially on the phone records. [...]
SCHIEFFER: I think I just heard you say you think there was criminal activity, I take it, involving the IRS? Are you connecting that to the White House? Have you found a connection there yet?
ROGERS: No. What I’m saying is the White House themselves have admitted that people in the White House knew about this behavior, and I think that investigation is still ongoing. [...]
SCHIEFFER: You’re not saying in the this point you think this is directed out of the White House?
ROGERS: No, I’m just saying the White House themselves said they were aware of the program at the White House. That was their own admission. That to me, though, the activity which the IRS engaged in I believe crosses the line into criminal activity. Wow we’re just going to have to figure out where does that end?
The White House acknowledged that General Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler learned about a pending Treasury inspector general’s report about the targeting on April 24 (days before it became public on May 10) and informed Chief of Staff Dennis McDonough and other Treasury officials, but there is no evidence that officials knew about the actual targeting or were involved in the effort.
The report ultimately concluded that the IRS relied on “inappropriate criteria” while vetting groups applying for nonprofit status by using a BOLO—”Be On the Look Out”—list and blamed IRS officials in Washington, DC, for “insufficient oversight” of lower-level staffers. However, it found that “All of these officials stated that the criteria were not influenced by any individual or organization outside the IRS.”
Moreover, the House Oversight Committee’s interviews with the IRS officials responsible for the targeting purportedly reveal that the effort began after a screener “highlighted the first Tea Party case in February 2010” and his manager, a Republican, identified the case as “high profile” and sent it to technical officials in Washington for guidance. The Screening Group Manager told investigators that he “took this action on his own, without any direction from his superiors, and without any political motivation.” Another IRS screener also confessed to using terms like “Patriot” and “9/12″ and in searches to screen for additional cases that fit the “high profile” mold.