House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) is refusing to release transcripts of interviews with Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agents that allegedly prove how political officials in the Obama administration directed the IRS to target conservative groups applying for 501 (c)(4) status.
The California congressman, whose committee is conducting an investigation into the agency’s behavior, provided CNN excerpts of interviews with IRS agents on June 2 and assured host Candy Crowley that “the whole transcript will be put out.” The portion purported to show an IRS official conceding that “directions” for to treat Tea Party groups “emanated from Washington,” though Issa himself conceded that that excerpt was not definitive.
But in a letter to the top Democrat on the Committee, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Issa appeared to back away from his pledge, arguing that releasing the transcripts would “needlessly jeopardize the integrity of the investigation and hamper the Committee’s ability to get to the truth.” Experts, he contested, are useful and “serve to provide important updates to the public” and “empower other witnesses to become whistleblowers.”
During his appearance on CNN, Issa called White House Press Secretary Jay Carney a “paid liar” and claimed that the spokesperson is “making up things about what happens in calling this local rogue,” leading several Republicans to speak out against his tactics. A week later, Cummings appeared on CNN to challenge the Chairman. “I want those transcripts to be released,” Cummings said. “I’m willing to come on your show next week with the Chairman with the transcripts if he agrees to do that. If he doesn’t, I’ll release them by the end of the week.”
Cummings insisted that the full interviews will demonstrate that “the White House was not involved in this,” pointing out that the Cincinnati IRS manager of the screening group, a career veteran at the agency who identified himself as Republican, told investigators that Washington did not direct the targeting. “I do not believe that the screening of these cases had anything to do other than consistency and identifying issues that needed to have further development,” the individual told investigators according to a portion of the transcripts released by the Democratic staff on the House Oversight Committee.
Cummings condemned Issa’s refusal to release the full transcripts in a statement on Tuesday. “Chairman Issa changes his mind so fast that even when I agree him, we’re not on the same page,” he said. “I fully support responsible oversight, but cherry picking transcript excerpts to fuel partisan and unsubstantiated claims is not a credible or effective way to investigate.”
An Inspector General’s report into the matter 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 specifically concluded that “All of these officials stated that the criteria were not influenced by any individual or organization outside the IRS.”