Rep. Darrell Issa said on Wednesday that the resignation of Acting IRS Director Steven Miller in light of the agency’s recent admission to targeting conservative groups for extra scrutiny was “an extremely good first step.”
“The president set exactly the right tone,” the California Republican told Wolf Blitzer on CNN. “Immediately relieving an acting commissioner who had made false statements and misled Congress is an extremely good first step.”
In announcing Miller’s resignation, President Barack Obama pledged to work with Congress on the matter.
Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said that’s exactly what Obama is going to get.
The chairman cited how he and ranking Democratic committee member Elijah Cummings of Maryland “have pledged to do bipartisan work. We’ve started off that way. We’re going to stay that way.
“The IRS is definitely an issue in which what happens wrong today could happen wrong tomorrow to a different group of Americans.
“The president’s going to find very willing partners on Capitol Hill,” Issa told CNN. “In this case, we take him very much at his word that he wants to be open and transparent in fixing the system and putting new controls in place.”
The IRS apologized last week for singling out groups with such words as “tea party” or “patriot” in their names when reviewing their applications for nonprofit status.
Reports have since emerged that the agency gave better treatment to left-wing groups than those on the right, with data showing that the IRS approved dozens of liberal and progressive organizations as tax-exempt while leaving conservative groups hanging.
No tea party applications were approved in a 27-month period beginning in February 2010, USA Today reports.
Issa, who also sits on the House Judiciary Committee, noted a report by the IRS inspector general that “made it clear that there were additional people beyond the obvious one who had made false statements.”
Such workers, he added, could be tough to fire because they are civil-service employees. “You can relieve them from doing things with this level of trust.
“The inspector general’s report made it clear that the system did not have the safeguards that the American people expect — and what the administration and the Congress will have to do is create the comfort level that this will never happen again.”
Issa added that he welcomed the Obama administration’s release later Wednesday of 100 pages of emails and notes on the talking points used to initially describe the attack last Sept. 11 of the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
News reports last week said the emails were edited to omit a warning from the CIA of an al-Qaida threat.
“We do welcome them, although releasing them to the press before releasing them to the Congress would seem pretty inappropriate,” Issa told CNN. “There are many other documents that they’re still not releasing.”
His oversight panel needs to “digest these pages, but we recognize that these are selected pages. We need to have full access to the deliberative process of the emails.
“When you look at this train, you still have to ask the question, ‘How did they go from the correct information to the incorrect information?’” Issa said.
Meanwhile, the congressmen also commented on a heated exchange he had with Attorney General Eric Holder during a four-hour Judiciary Committee hearing.
The clash, primarily over Assistant Attorney General and Labor Secretary nominee Thomas Perez, led Holder to blast Issa’s conduct as “unacceptable” and “shameful.”
The tiff began when Issa accused the Justice Department of trying to hide the content of e-mails from Perez that had been submitted to investigators:
Holder: I will certainly look at the request. … I’m sure there must have been a good reason why …
Issa: Yes, you didn’t want us to see the details. Mr. Attorney General…
Holder: No. This is what you typically do.
Issa: Knowing the two…
Holder: I’m not going to stop talking now. You have characterized something as something…
Issa: Mr. Chairman [Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.], will you inform the witness as to the rules of this committee?
Holder: …It is too consistent with the way in which you conduct yourself as a member of Congress. It’s unacceptable, and it’s shameful.
Goodlatte: The gentleman has the time, and the gentleman may ask the questions that he deems appropriate.
Issa: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
He told Blitzer, “I have to keep doing my job even if the attorney general objects.”
Issa noted that Perez had told congressional investigators he had written no private emails in the case of the Justice’s Civil Rights Division not participating in a whistleblower complaint against the city of St. Paul. Perez headed the division at the time.
Republicans opposing Perez’s Labor Secretary nomination contend that he did so because he was seeking for the city to withdraw its Supreme Court challenge to federal housing discrimination guidelines.
Investigators have since learned of as many 1,200 such emails, none of which have been released by Justice in violation of the Federal Records Act, Issa said.
“We know that one of them was to the White House, one of them was to a [Housing and Urban Development] individual related to a quid pro quo that he conducted secretly in St. Paul,” Issa told CNN. “It’s a cover-up.”
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