The war of words over the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups is escalating between House Oversight Committee chair Darrell Issa and ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings.
Cummings on Tuesday released more than 200 pages of transcripts of an interview the committee conducted with a Cincinnati-based IRS group manager, a self-described “conservative Republican.” In the interviews, the manager said the scrutiny was not directed by the White House.
The political drama between the two lawmakers began earlier this month when Issa asserted the IRS targeting of conservative groups began in Washington. Issa released cherry-picked transcripts of IRS officials, including one unnamed employee claiming to have taken “all my direction from Washington.”
Cummings immediately ripped Issa’s claims as “reckless” and released partial transcripts from the interview with the manager–who denied any Washington link—last week. Cummings warned Issa that if Republicans wouldn’t release the entire transcript, he would.
That brings us to today.
“I got sort of tired--transcripts being leaked, parts of them by our chairman but at the same time not [all of them]. “…All I want to do is that the American people have the complete story,” Cummings told Hardball’s Chris Matthews on Tuesday.
So what was in the transcript?
Cummings found the very first case was flagged in Cincinnati, the group manager centralized cases for consistency, the Cincinnati agent developed inappropriate screening criteria, the manager didn’t learn of the criteria until a year later, and perhaps most importantly, no witnesses have identified any White House involvement.
“To be clear, I am not suggesting that IRS employees in Washington D.C. played no role in these activities,” Cummings said in a letter to Issa. “…These facts are a far cry from accusations of a conspiracy orchestrated by the White House to target the president’s political enemies.”
Issa, who has previously accused Cummings of trying to sweep the issue under the rug, also released a statement saying he was “deeply disappointed” with Cummings. .
“After unsuccessfully trying to convince the American people that IRS officials in Washington did not play a role in inappropriate scrutiny of Tea Party groups and declaring on national television that the case of IRS targeting was 'solved' and Congress should 'move on,' this looks like flailing. Americans who think Congress should investigate IRS misconduct should be outraged by Mr. Cummings' efforts to obstruct needed oversight."
President Obama has said he was unaware of the IRS’s practice and has promised to hold other officials in the tax collection agency accountable. The disclosure of the targeting has led to the resignation of two top IRS officials.
Matthews asked Cummings why he won't release all of the interview transcripts, not just the one with the IRS manager. The Democrat said he was trying to defer to Issa, but added, "I don't see a reason not to do that."
You can read the transcript Cummings released here.