Wishful thinking? GOP searches for an IRS-Obama link

Updated
File Photo: U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks during a press conference with fellow Republicans on June 29, 2011 in Washington, DC.
File Photo: U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks during a press conference with fellow Republicans on June 29, 2011 in Washington, DC.
Win McNamee/Getty Images, File

Republicans keep shouting from the rooftops that the White House is guilty of scandalous behavior involving the acknowledged bad behavior from IRS agents. The calls have become so fierce that it almost seems as if the GOP believes that the volume with which these charges are voiced can make up for the lack of substance in these allegations.

Several GOP lawmakers appeared on the Sunday news shows over the weekend promising to investigate any potential White House involvement in the tax agency’s wrongful targeting of conservative groups before the 2012 election. But any evidence of such a link is, to this point, largely non-existent.

President Obama–who accepted the resignation of two top agency staffers last week–said he was unaware of the IRS’ practice until media reports surfaced earlier this month. He has promised to hold other IRS officials accountable and work with Congress to make sure “this doesn’t happen again”.

Related: Treasury knew of IRS audit, but likely little more


White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer said as much over the weekend, hitting all five major Sunday morning talk shows to defend Obama on the IRS, as well as against Republican accusations that the administration was involved in a cover-up on the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi and the Justice Departments’ decision to issue a subpoena for AP journalists’ phone records.

Pfeiffer told NBC’s Meet The Press that the IRS targeting is a “problem that needs to be addressed. We need to make sure it never happens again.” He added, however, that he doesn’t buy the theory that there’s a cloud of scandal that’s hanging over the president.

“I think we’ve seen this playbook from the Republicans before. What they want to do when they are lacking a positive agenda is try to drag Washington into a swamp of partisan fishing expeditions, trumped up hearings and false allegations,” said Pfeiffer. “We’re not going to let that happen. The president has got business to do.”


It’s not stopping GOPers from trying.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell appeared on the same show insisting “there is a culture of intimidation throughout the administration. The IRS is just the most recent example.”

Meet The Press host David Gregory pressed further, asking the Kentucky lawmaker if there was any evidence that the president directed a “culture of intimidation” at the IRS to target his opponents. McConnell acknowledged “I don’t think we know what the facts are.” Gregory noted, “That hasn’t stopped you from accusing.”

Republican Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan, who chairs the House committee looking into the IRS, also admitted there was no evidence. “We don’t have anything to say that the president knew about it.” At the Congressional hearing on Friday, he went as far as to say the IRS scandal shows a “culture of cover-ups” and “political intimidation” within the Obama administration.

And then there’s Sen. Rand Paul, who claimed on CNN that there’s a memo that proves agency officials were “targeting people who were opposed to the president.” When asked further about the written document by anchor Candy Crowley, the Tea Partier admitted he had only heard about the memo. “Well, we keep hearing the reports…I haven’t seen a policy statement, but I think we need to see that,” he said.

Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio argued on ABC’s This Week that a special counsel to investigate the IRS would be necessary. Congress continues to hold hearings on the subject this week, and Attorney General Eric Holder has also ordered an investigation.

Despite the lack of evidence of White House involvement, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin insisted the IRS drama was just another example of “big-government cronyism” on Fox News Sunday. “This is rotten to the core. This is arrogance,” the failed 2012 vice presidential candidate added.

Obama has since installed a new, temporary boss for the IRS and has greenlighted a 30-day review of the agency’s operation. “Everything will be looked at,” Pfeiffer told Fox News.

The Senate Finance Committee has scheduled a hearing on the IRS on Tuesday and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has one planned on Wednesday

For more, tune into Hardball at 5 and 7 p.m. ET. We’ll have more on the GOP in search of a White House scandal with msnbc analysts Michael Steele, former RNC chair, and Joan Walsh of Salon.com.

Wishful thinking? GOP searches for an IRS-Obama link

Updated