Issa: IRS Targeting of Conservatives Directed by Washington
The IRS agents in Cincinnati who were involved in the targeting of conservative groups were "being directly ordered from Washington," Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said Sunday.
Issa, who is heading the House investigation into the affair, accused the White House of lying about the involvement of IRS headquarter officials in the scandal.
He also called White House Press Secretary Jay Carney a "paid liar."
"The administration is still - their paid liar, their spokesperson, picture behind - he's (Carney) still making up things about what happens and calling this local rogue," Issa said on CNN's "State of the Union."
"The reason that Lois Lerner tried to take the Fifth [Amendment when called to testify before Congress] is not because there's a rogue in Cincinnati," Issa added. "It's because this is a problem that was coordinated in all likelihood right out of Washington headquarters And we're getting to proving it.
"The administration is still trying to say there's a few rogue agents in Cincinnati, when in fact the indication is they were directly being ordered from Washington," he said.
Interviews of IRS workers from the Cincinnati office by House investigtors are providing evidence that the orders stemmed directly from Washington, Issa said. Though he stopped short of saying that President Obama was involved.
"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," Issa said. "Now, I'm not making any allegations as to motive, that they set out to do it. But certainly, people knew it was happening."
The public and the agency itself needs to be reminded that "we're watching," said Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, referring to lawmakers.
Issa said that one IRS agent was so uncomfortable with forcing conservative groups to jump through extra hoops that the agent requested a transfer.
But that agent should have become a whistleblower, and it was his committee's aim to change the culture of the tax-collecting agency where a whistleblower does comes forward, Issa said.
"These folks cannot get a pass by saying, 'I was ordered to do it.' Because ethically, they clearly knew this was wrong; they should have become whistleblowers," Issa said. "They should have done something on behalf of the American people … If the IG had been told, 'I'm being ordered to do this,' this investigation might have ended very differently."
Too many people were aware of the targeting before the election, Issa said, "and at least by some sort of convenient, benign neglect" allowed some "not-friends-of-the-president to be disenfranchised through an election."
Issa said people certainly knew that the targeting was happening. "They could have done something, and would have done something, I'm sure, if these had been progressive groups or groups that supported the president."
Issa denied trying to tie the wrongdoing at the IRS directly to the president. "What we've tried to do," he said, "is to get the kinds of transparency we were promised, which we're not getting."
In a separate controversy, Issa was asked whether Attorney General Eric Holder lied under oath in the targeting of Fox News reporter James Rosen.
"He certainly could have been more candid if he remembered. And he should have remembered," Issa said.
It would be kind to say that Holder misled Congress when he said he had never been personally involved in prosecuting the journalist who received a leak of classified material, Issa said.
"It would be less kind and more accurate to say that would rise to be a lie by most people's standards."
But should Holder resign?
"That's up to the president," Issa said.