Rep. Elijah Cummings, the Democratic ranking member on House Oversight Committee, released more than 200 pages of interview transcripts Tuesday afternoon after the committee’s Chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa (R), refused to do so.
Cummings is seeking to dispel any notion that targeting of Tea Party groups by the Internal Revenue Service stemmed was ordered from Washington.
Cummings released transcripts with an IRS screening group manager described as a “conservative Republican,” who said that the targeting of the Tea Party groups applying for tax-exempt status started with low-level workers in Cincinnati. The witness also said that there was no communication on the targeting with any senior IRS officials or with anyone in Washington or the Obama administration.
Democrats have posted the key portion of the transcript here, in which the manager says he initially was made aware of a case involving a Tea Party group when an agent “asked for guidance.” He agreed with the agent that there “wasn’t enough information” to determine whether the group should have a tax-exempt status, and said he elevated the issue to his “area manager.”
The manager also said an official in the exempt organisations division in Washington was “pleased with the decision to elevate this case,” but suggested there wasn’t a political role in the targeting.
“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 manager said.
He also told the Oversight Committee that he believed no one from the White House was involved in the IRS’ screening of Tea Party groups.
From Page 141 of the transcripts:
House Oversight CommitteeThe release of the transcripts came after two weeks of back-and-forth squabbling between Cummings and Oversight Committee Chair Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who Cummings accused of selectively releasing portions of the transcripts.
Cummings called on Issa to release the entire transcripts, which Issa said would harm the investigation. Cummings asked him for specific reasons, and demanded he respond by Monday. When Issa didn’t respond, Cummings released the entirety of the transcripts.
Issa’s office also did not respond to requests from multiple media outlets — including this one — that asked whether he would eventually release full transcripts.
“I believe releasing this transcript serves the best interest of Congress and the American people by ensuring that there is an accurate and fair picture of the management challenges facing the IRS and that recommendations for legislative reform are appropriately crafted to address the specific problems identified as a result of our oversight efforts,” Cummings said in a statement along with the release of the transcripts.
Issa immediately decried the release of the transcripts, saying he was “deeply disappointed” at Cummings’ decision. He said their release would encourage IRS officials to “navigate investigative interviews” with Congress.
“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,” Issa said. “Americans who think Congress should investigate IRS misconduct should be outraged by Mr. Cummings’ efforts to obstruct needed oversight.”
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