IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Obama boots out IRS commissioner amid scandal

President Obama said Wednesday that acting-IRS commissioner Steven Miller has resigned.
President Obama makes a statement on the IRS at the White House in Washington on May 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Obama makes a statement on the IRS at the White House in Washington on May 15, 2013.

President Obama said Wednesday that acting-IRS commissioner Steven Miller has resigned. The president said he had asked for Miller's resignation in response to reports of what's been described as "overly aggressive" targeting of conservative leaning groups. The president also said new safeguards will be put in place to "make sure this behavior doesn't happen" in the future. Miller's resignation was requested by Treasury Secretary Lew at the president's behest.

The president reiterated his own frustration with the actions of the IRS, calling them "inexcusable."

"Americans are right to be angry about it, and I'm angry about it," he said. "It's important to institute new leadership that can restore confidence going forward."

"I will not tolerate this behavior in any agency but especially the IRS--given the power and reach it has in all our lives... It should not matter what political stripe you're from, the fact of the matter is the IRS has to operate with absolute integrity."

The president said he would work with Congress as it performs its oversight role, saying he's looking forward to working "hand-in-hand" to fix the situation, while not-so-subtly encouraging his colleagues across the aisle to work "in a way that doesn't smack of politics or partisan agenda."

"Across the board everybody believes that what happened in the IG report is an outrage. The good news is that it's fixable," he said. "I'll do everything in my power to make sure nothing like this ever happens again."

Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell responded quickly to the announcement, showing no signs of dropping the "politics or partisan agenda" to which the president referred.

“More than two years after the problem began, and a year after the IRS told us there was no problem, the President is beginning to take action," he said in a statement. "If the President is as concerned about this issue as he claims, he’ll work openly and transparently with Congress to get to the bottom of the scandal—no stonewalling, no half-answers, no withholding of witnesses. These allegations are serious — that there was an effort to bring the power of the federal government to bear on those the administration disagreed with, in the middle of a heated national election. We are determined to get answers, and to ensure that this type of intimidation never happens again at the IRS or any other agency.”

Obama's announcement comes less than 24 hours after an Inspector General's report on the matter, which blamed ineffective IRS management for failing to stop two "rogue" employees from using "inappropriate criteria" in deciding which applications for tax exempt status would be held up for review.

Attorney General  Eric Holder announced a separate Justice Department investigation Tuesday to determine if any laws were broken in connection with the matter.

Acting IRS commissioner Steven Miller sent the following internal message to IRS employees Wednesday afternoon:

It is with regret that I will be departing from the IRS as my acting assignment ends in early June. This has been an incredibly difficult time for the IRS given the events of the past few days, and there is a strong and immediate need to restore public trust in the nation’s tax agency. I believe the Service will benefit from having a new Acting Commissioner in place during this challenging period. As I wrap up my time at the IRS, I will be focused on an orderly transition.While I recognize that much work needs to be done to restore faith in the IRS, I don’t want anyone to lose sight of the fact that the IRS is comprised of incredibly dedicated and hard-working public servants. During my 25-year IRS career, I am profoundly proud to have worked alongside you and to be part of an institution that has worked hard to support the nation. I have strong confidence in the IRS leadership team to continue the important work of our agency.I want to thank everyone for all of their support and friendship during my career in government service. And I especially want to thank each and every one of you for your continued commitment to the nation’s taxpayers.

Earlier Wednesday, a senior IRS official revealed to congressional investigators that two IRS employees were disciplined for their role in the screening of conservative groups over tax exempt status.

Although most reports have focused on the increased scrutiny faced by Tea Party and "patriot" affiliated groups, reporting from Bloomberg showed that at least a handful of liberal groups were also held up to  increased scrutiny. Bloomberg reports that Progress Texas, Emerge America, Clean Elections Texas received additional queries from the department.