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IRS allegations: Republicans tell Issa, don't 'make it personal'

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) holds a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on alleged targeting of political groups seeking tax-exempt status from by the Internal Revenue Service. (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst )
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) holds a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on alleged targeting of political groups seeking tax-exempt status...

Rep. Darrell Issa's allegations that White House Press Secretary Jay Carney is a "paid liar," "making up things about what happens and calling [the so-called IRS scandal] a local rogue," seem to have crossed the line for some of his fellow Republicans.

"Let's not make it personal," said Sen. Lindsey Graham on Monday. "Jay Carney is not the issue here." Later in the interview, Graham added, "I don't believe this was something thought up in the Cincinnati office, but I have no evidence that goes to the White House."

"I never like to use that word," said John McCain, referring to Issa's use of 'liar.' "I think that we should let these investigations take their course, let the facts come out."

"If you’re in this position as a chairman, responsible for these investigations, that just basically announces to everybody—I’m not saying he is—‘I’m a partisan. Anything that I conclude is based on my partisan beliefs,’" said msnbc's Joe Scarborough on Morning Joe Monday. "You’ve got to pull back... you can’t say things like this.”

Issa seems sure that the Cincinnati branch of the IRS's targeting of Tea Party-related groups "was a problem that was coordinated, in all likelihood, right out of Washington headquarters."

When Candy Crowley asked Rep. Darrell Issa what his gut told him about the IRS "scandal" on Face the Nation Sunday, he said, "my gut tells me that too many people knew that this wrongdoing was going on before the election, and at least by some sort of convenient benign neglect allowed it to go on through the election, allowed these groups, these conservative groups, these, if you will, 'not-friends-of-the-president' to be disenfranchised through an election."

Despite Issa's claims, there has been no testimony decisively linking the Obama administration or senior IRS officials with the actions of the Cincinnati branch. The only testimony that suggests a link is from excerpted interviews with IRS Cincinnati employees, excerpts edited and pruned by Issa himself. Here's one of the snippets in question:

Q: So is it your perspective that ultimately the responsible parties for the decisions that were reported by the IG are not in the Cincinnati office? A: I don't know how to answer that question.  I mean, from an agent standpoint, we didn't do anything wrong.  We followed directions based on other people telling us what to do. Q: And you ultimately followed directions from Washington; is that correct? A: If direction had come down from Washington, yes. Q: But with respect to the particular scrutiny that was given to Tea Party applications, those directions emanated from Washington; is that right? A: I believe so.

As Candy Crowley said, "It's totally not definitive."

At Monday's White House press briefing, Carney refused to bite on questions about Issa's name-calling: "I'm not going to get into a back-and-forth with Chairman Issa," he said repeatedly, emphasizing instead "the need to find out all the inappropriate activity that occurred, make sure, as the president insists, that those who are responsible for inappropriate, outrageous activity be held accountable."

Updated on July 8, 2013 at 9:17pm ET