White House Spokesman vs. IRS Whistleblowers: Who’s Telling the Truth?

Fred Lucas | June 4, 2013 | 12:11pm EDT
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White House Press Secretary Jay Carney (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) – White House Press Secretary Jay Carney’s assertions that “line IRS employees in Cincinnati” were responsible for the Internal Revenue Service scandal directly contradicts testimony from two unnamed IRS whistleblowers who told congressional investigators the targeting of Tea Party and conservative groups was coordinated from the Washington headquarters.

The contradiction prompted House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) to call Carney a “paid liar” during a CNN interview on Sunday.

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One IRS employee told committee investigators in a transcribed interview, “It's impossible. As an agent we are controlled by many, many people. We have to submit many, many reports. So the chance of two agents being rogue and doing things like that could never happen.”

Another more senior IRS employee in Cincinnati left for another job because of too much micromanagement from Washington that “I didn't want to be associated with.”

An inspector general report found that the IRS was targeting organizations with words such as “tea party,” “patriot,” and “making America a better place,” for extra scrutiny in applications for non-profit status as a 501(c)(4) organization.

Issa spokesman Frederick Hill told CNSNews.com that Issa, during his Sunday interview, was referring to two specific statements from Carney during White House press briefings on May 20 and 21.

A reporter asked Carney on May 20, “But that sounds pretty top line and the information – and now you're saying that the information was actually that the finding that that line IRS employees had improperly scrutinized certain 501(c)(4) organizations by using words like tea party and patriot.”

Carney responded, “Right, and I'm making clear now that when activity in Cincinnati – because it had been reported already when I answered that question – was very specifically about, as I just said, line IRS employees in Cincinnati improperly scrutinizing 501(c)(4) organizations by using words like ‘tea party,’ in quotes and ‘patriot.’ Counsel was further informed that the report had not yet been finalized and the publication date of the report was uncertain, but likely soon.”

The next day, a reporter asked Carney, “When the president learned about the findings from the IRS audit in the newspaper, did he ask senior advisers why he was learning about this from the newspaper?”

Carney answered, “No, I don't believe he did. I wasn't present when he learned about it, but I know that he was not happy with the apparent conduct, because, again, this was incomplete information. The IG report had not been finalized or released, but I think that the tenor of the president's public comments about it – both in his statement Tuesday night and his public comments the next day – reflect his feelings upon learning about the apparent conduct by our IRS officials in Cincinnati.”

Carney was asked Monday about being called a “paid liar” by Issa.

“I am not interested in a back and forth with the chairman,” Carney said. “I am interested in what I believe most people in Washington who are looking at this are interested in, which is what the president’s focus is on. We need to make sure we know everything that happened here and that those who were responsible for inappropriate conduct are held accountable and that actions are taken so that it doesn’t happen again.”

He added, “That comment has been evaluated by plenty of people, and I will refrain from doing it myself.”

Issa was interviewed Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” with Candy Crowley.

Among the pictures on the set behind Crowley was a photo of Carney behind the White House podium.

“The administration is still, their paid liar, their spokesperson pictured behind you, he’s still making up things about what happened and calling this a local rogue,” Issa told Crowley. “There is no indication. The reason that Lois Lerner tried to take the Fifth is not because there is a rogue in Cincinnati. It’s because this was a problem that was coordinated in likelihood right out of Washington headquarters.”

Issa referenced Lerner, director of the IRS exempt organizations division, now on administration leave. Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in front of an oversight hearing, but only after first reading a statement proclaiming she was innocent of any wrongdoing.

“The president’s spokesperson is saying whatever is convenient at the time, and the story changes,” Issa said during the CNN interview. “What we have is people coming into transcribed interviews. They are saying under penalty of crimes that certain things are true.”

The oversight committee released partial transcripts of two interviews with two Cincinnati IRS employees. Issa said that complete transcripts will be released when completed.

One Cincinnati IRS employee told committee investigators that in March 2010 the supervisor asked that applications with the word Tea Party be reviewed.

The committee asked, “Did [your supervisor] give you any indication of the need for the search, any more context?”

The IRS employee answered, “He told me that Washington, D.C., wanted some cases.”

The IRS employee claimed to have sent seven cases to Washington.

“He said Washington, D.C. wanted seven,” the IRS employee said. “Because at one point I believe I heard they were thinking 10, but it came down to seven. I said okay, seven.”

The IRS employee went on to say that another IRS employee from Washington “wanted to have two cases that she couldn’t – Washington, D.C. wanted them, but she couldn't find the paper. So she requested me, through an email, to find these cases for her and to send them to Washington, D.C.”

House staff asked the employee, “So what do you think about this, that allegation has been made, I think as you have seen in lots of press reports, that there were two rogue agents in Cincinnati that are sort of responsible for all of the issues that we have been talking about today. What do you think about those allegations?”

The employee answered, “It's impossible. As an agent we are controlled by many, many people. We have to submit many, many reports. So the chance of two agents being rogue and doing things like that could never happen.”

The IRS employee was asked, “With respect to the particular scrutiny that was given to Tea Party applications, those directions emanated from Washington; is that right?” and answered, “I believe so.”

Another Cincinnati employee that the committee described as more senior level, complained about micromanagement from Washington.

The senior IRS employee said the purpose of the BOLO, the acronym for the “Be on the Look Out,” list for the IRS, was to target conservative, Republican and tea party groups.”

In follow-up questions, the committee staff asked the senior employee, “Earlier I believe you informed us that the primary reason for applying for another job in July [2010] was because of the micromanagement from [Washington, DC, IRS Attorney], is that correct?”

The senior employee answered, “Right. It was the whole Tea Party. It was the whole picture. I mean, it was the micromanagement. The fact that the subject area was extremely sensitive and it was something that I didn't want to be associated with.”

The committee followed, “Why didn't you want to be associated with it?”

The senior employee answered, “For what happened now. I mean, rogue agent? Even though I was taking all my direction from EO [Exempt Organizations] Technical [Washington, D.C], I didn't want my name in the paper for being this rogue agent for a project I had no control over.”

The committee followed, “Did you think there was something inappropriate about what was happening in 2010?”

The senior employee answered, “Yes. The inappropriateness was not processing these applications fairly and timely.”

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