Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md., the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, has sent a letter to committee chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., urging him to stop making unsubstantiated allegations about the IRS Tea Party targeting scandal being traced back to the White House.
Cummings also presented new information Sunday about the committee’s six-hour transcribed interview with a self-identified “conservative Republican” manager who led a team of IRS screeners in Cincinnati as they reviewed applications by Tea Party groups for tax exempt status. The manager, who served as an IRS civil servant for 21 years, denied Issa’s claim of White House involvement in targeting conservative groups (see Congress Unveils IRS Employee Interviews about Tea Party Groups). The IRS manager defended the actions of his team as attempting to ensure consistency and focus on the facts and circumstances of individual cases, and rejected any suggestion that political considerations played a role in his actions or those of his screeners.
“I do not believe that the screening of these cases had anything to do other than consistency and identifying issues that needed to have further development,” the screening group manager said when asked about centralizing the review of the Tea Party cases.
Cummings also forwarded a staff memo with detailed information obtained during the committee’s investigation that he contended Issa has not disclosed publicly. In his letter, he condemned Issa’s approach to multiple investigations since he became chairman of the Oversight Committee, including Operation Fast and Furious, Benghazi, and now the IRS:
“Your actions over the past three years do not reflect a responsible, bipartisan approach to investigations, and the committee’s credibility has been damaged as a result,” Cummings wrote. “Your approach in all of these cases has been to accuse first, and then go in search of evidence to back up your claims. Rather than apologizing or correcting the record when the evidence does not fit your narrative, you have selectively leaked excerpts of interview transcripts, documents and other information, and you have withheld evidence that directly contradicts your claims, is exculpatory, or provides a more complete and fair understanding of the facts.”
Instead, Cummings called on Issa to work together in a bipartisan manner by taking three key steps: develop consensus findings based on the evidence before the committee; release publicly the transcripts of all interviews conducted by committee staff, after making limited redactions to protect individual privacy; and issue a comprehensive and bipartisan report with recommendations adopted by the full committee.
Issa hit back in response to Cummings’ statements in his letter and in an appearance by Cummings on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.
"I strongly disagree with ranking member Cummings' assertion that we know everything we need to know about inappropriate targeting of Tea Party groups by the IRS and the case is, in his word, 'solved,.'” said Issa in a statement Sunday. “His extreme and reckless assertions are a signal that his true motivation is stopping needed Congressional oversight and he has no genuine interest in working, on a bipartisan basis, to expose the full truth. The American public wants to know why targeting occurred and who was involved. The testimony excerpts ranking member Cummings revealed today did not provide anything enlightening or contradict other witness accounts. The only thing ranking member Cummings left clear in his comments today is that if it were up to him the investigation would be closed. Fortunately, the decision to close the investigation is not his to make. Both House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp and I are committed to leading a fact based investigation that fully exposes all relevant facts about IRS efforts to target Americans for their political beliefs."