House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said Sunday that the White House had never been a central focus of his committee's investigation into the IRS's improper scrutiny of Tea Party groups. "We've never looked for the White House, other than the White House is not cooperating and continues to not cooperate," Issa said on CNN's "State of the Union."
As part of the Republicans' ongoing search for some kind of credible White House "scandal," we've heard Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) make some pretty remarkable claims. But if we're ranking them for sheer audacity, this would have to be near the top.
Look, even the most enthusiastic proponents of the IRS "controversy" have struggled to keep this story going, largely because it started to evaporate a year ago when the most serious allegations fell apart. While many, including me, took the matter seriously when it initially looked like the tax agency targeted conservatives for unfair treatment in an election year, we now know that's simply not what happened.
But there's no great mystery as to why the right has fought so diligently over the last year to turn something into nothing: they not only want to attack the IRS; they also hold out hope that this could someday be the presidential scandal they've sought since Inauguration Day 2009.
For Issa to say, in the context of a discussion about this faux controversy, "We've never looked for the White House," is something of a breakthrough -- the far-right committee chairman is effectively conceding the West Wing wasn't involved -- but the congressman's claim is also demonstrably untrue.
The minority staff on the House Ways & Means Committee pulled together a few quotes that Issa might find interesting:
* Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp and Rep. Charles Boustany: "This entire case started with the White House." (June 17, 2014)
* Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers: "Of course, the enemies list out of the White House that IRS was engaged in shutting down or trying to shut down the conservative political viewpoint across the country — an enemies list that rivals that of another president some time ago." (June 3, 2013)
* House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers: "You have IRS that clearly showed some criminal behavior that at least we know was back at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue." (June 16, 2013)
* Senator Ted Cruz: "We have seen a consistent pattern in this administration, and the pattern is a willingness to use the machinery of government to target those they perceive as their political enemies. That was true with the IRS, and it's true with the Department of Justice, in targeting reporters." (June 3, 2013)
Now, as a factual matter, each of these Republicans, along with Issa, Fox News, and a large cast of characters, have spent a year trying to (a) find evidence of IRS wrongdoing, and (b) uncover a conspiracy that relates in some way to the White House. So far, they've found bupkis. They've been more than a little irresponsible insisting that the "scandal" has already been tied directly to the White House, but those claims are plainly at odds with reality.
Which is why it's all the more amusing for Issa to deny Republicans even tried to make the connection in the first place. The whole point has been to make this a "President Obama controversy," not an "IRS controversy."
The facts tell us it's neither, but that doesn't make the California Republican's denial any less hilarious.