Obama Lectures Congress on 'Partisan Agendas' as IRS Scandal Deepens
A day after the Inspector General released an audit that found the IRS inappropriately targeted Tea Party and conservative groups, President Barack Obama on Wednesday again lectured Congress on bipartisanship, warning members of Congress that their actions in the coming days should not "smack of politics or partisan agendas."
In a brief statement in the East Room of the White House, Obama also announced that Treasury Secretary Jack Lew requested--and accepted--the resignation of acting IRS Commissioner Steven T. Miller.
Miller had been informed in 2012 that the IRS had targeted Tea Party and conservative groups but did not inform Congress about it.
Obama said the White House intends to "work with Congress as it performs its oversight role"; he claimed everyone believes what the IRS did was "outrageous." He also said he has instructed Lew to "ensure the IRS begins" to implement the Inspector General's recommendations to prevent such abuse in the future.
"I will not tolerate this kind of behavior in any agency, but especially in the IRS," Obama said, noting the IRS reaches "all of our lives." He said, "it should not matter what political stripe you're from, the fact of the matter is that the IRS has to operate with absolute integrity."
The Inspector General who investigated the IRS said in an audit released on Tuesday that the agency used "inappropriate criteria that identified Tea Party and other organizations applying for tax-exempt status based upon their names or policy positions." As Breitbart News reported, the Inspector General found that the agency reviewed every organization with "Tea Party" in its name over an 18-month period.
A USA Today investigation found that while "applications from conservative groups sat in limbo, groups with obviously liberal names"--with names including words like "Progress" or "Progressive"--that applied for the same tax status and were engaged in the same kinds of activities as the conservative groups" were "approved in as little as nine months."
After reading the Inspector General's report, Obama claimed he had directed Treasury Secretary Jack Lew "to hold those responsible for these failures accountable, and to make sure that each of the Inspector General’s recommendations are implemented quickly, so that such conduct never happens again."
As Breitbart News reported, "the White House admitted this week that the White House's general counsel's office was notified of the Inspector General's investigation on April 22, but Obama and White House officials still did not find out about the IRS's targeting of conservative groups until they saw reports in the media last Friday."
White House spokesperson Jay Carney also said on Tuesday that he had "no reason to believe" Obama or anyone in the White House knew about the investigation before last Friday. Watchdog groups and lawmakers have called for fuller investigations to determine if the White House's accounts are valid, especially after reports surfaced that IRS officials in Washington, D.C. and Orange County, California also targeted conservative groups.
These questions are sure to come up on Thursday when Obama takes more questions about the IRS scandal--in addition to the Benghazi and AP scandals--from the White House press corps.