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

IRS 'scandal': Issa's case crumbles after release of transcripts

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md speaks with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 4. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md speaks with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 4.

Rep. Elijah Cummings--ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee--made good on his promise to release more transcripts from the committee's interviews with workers at the Cincinnati IRS. Despite protests from chairman Darrell Issa, Cummings made available Tuesday the full interview of the IRS Screening Group Manager, who handled groups applying for tax-exempt status.

"This interview transcript...debunks conspiracy theories about how the IRS first started reviewing these cases," Cummings wrote in a letter to Issa. "Answering questions from Committee staff for more than five hours, this official—who identified himself as a 'conservative Republican'—denied that he or anyone on his team was directed by the White House to take these actions or that they were politically motivated."

The "conspiracy theories" Cummings mentions were disseminated by Issa himself. On May 14th, Issa said unequivocally, “This was the targeting of the president’s political enemies effectively and lies about it during the election year, so that it wasn’t discovered until afterwards.” But he had no evidence to support this claim.

After a bipartisan group of committee members interviewed workers at the Cincinnati IRS, Issa opted to release only suggestive excerpts of the transcripts. When CNN's Candy Crowley pressed him to release the remainder on State of the Union earlier this month, Issa assured her that he would. When he did not, Cummings promised to release the interviews himself. “There’s nothing in those transcripts that I’m afraid of," he said.

Issa, calling the promise to release the transcripts "reckless," attacked Cummings directly: “Your decision to make that declaration in a very public way was irresponsible and emblematic of your general aversion to conducting meaningful oversight of the administration."

This did not sway the Democratic congressman, who wrote back to the chairman on June 13th to find a way to release the rest of the interviews in a responsible, bipartisan way, with "appropriate deference [toward Issa] in conducting Committee investigations." Cummings would've allowed Issa to redact anything he felt dangerous to the integrity of the investigation, but Issa wouldn't bite.

So Cummings went ahead and released the screening manager's full interview.

"I am deeply disappointed that ranking member Cummings has decided to broadly disseminate and post online a 205-page transcript that will serve as a road map for IRS officials to navigate investigative interviews with Congress,” Issa said in a statement Tuesday, adding: "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."

“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.