Cummings' Report: No White House Involvement in IRS Scandal

Cummings (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The White House never instructed the Internal Revenue Service to specifically target conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, according to a report released on Tuesday at the behest of Maryland Democrat Elijah E. Cummings.  

The report , which makes public "key portions" of all the interviews conducted by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee of 39 IRS and Treasury Department employees and officials, is the ranking member's latest effort to expose the GOP's yearlong investigation as politically motivated.  

Its release is well-timed: The House this week is scheduled to vote on two resolutions implicating former senior IRS official Lois Lerner in the scandal — one would hold her in contempt of Congress for refusing to testify before the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and the other would call for the Justice Department to appoint a special prosecutor  to probe Lerner on criminal charges. It's also Cummings' latest jab at his counterpart, committee chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who has led conservative efforts to rein in the IRS in the wake of revelations of misconduct in the spring of last year.  

“Now that the American people can actually see what each one of these 39 witnesses told the Committee — including even conservative Republican employees at the IRS — it is clear that there was no White House involvement or political motivation in the screening of tax exempt applicants, contrary to the accusations made by Chairman Issa before we began this investigation," Cummings said in a statement accompanying the report's release. "I continue to believe that the full transcripts should be made publicly available so the American people can read all the facts for themselves.”  

At a recent committee meeting to advance the resolution to hold Lerner in contempt of Congress for refusing to testify before the panel, Cummings made a motion to release the full transcripts of all the witness interviews, saying he would allow Issa to redact any portions he felt necessary "to protect the integrity of the investigation." Issa objected to the motion, but suggested that Cummings should "[go] through and [find] selected information that you believe is appropriate to make any case you want to make."  

The 68-page report unveiled on Tuesday represents Cummings' response to that challenge.  

Committee Republicans did not immediately release a statement in response to Cummings' report and accusations, but a spokeswoman provided CQ Roll Call with excerpted testimony from a June 2013 interview with an IRS employee to discredit the Democrats' argument and even suggested Democrats might be guilty of manipulating the facts.  

In that interview, the attorney for the IRS employee accused Democratic staff of coercing John Shafer, an IRS supervisor from the Cincinnati field office, into saying on the record there were no direct instructions from the White House to scrutinize some groups over others.  

"You're just going back and forth and trying different ways to do the same thing over and over again. You know, that's not a fair way to treat a witness," the attorney told a Democratic committee counsel, according to the partial transcript. "I realize that you got Mr. Shafer to say there was no White House involvement."