Multiple media outlets repeated Rep. Darrell Issa's (R-CA) unsubstantiated claim that IRS leadership in Washington, D.C., orchestrated the inappropriate targeting of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, neglecting to mention that Issa provided no evidence of the alleged link between IRS officials in Washington and Cincinnati.
Issa Cites Selectively Leaked IRS Emails To Baselessly Implicate Washington Officials
Issa: "This Is A Problem That Was Coordinated In All Likelihood Right Out Of Washington Headquarters." On the June 2 edition of CNN's State of the Union with Candy Crowley, Issa referenced selected excerpts of interviews with two IRS officials to claim that the agency's Washington headquarters coordinated the inappropriate targeting of conservative groups:
ISSA: The whole transcript will be put out. We understand -- these are in real time. And the administration is still -- they're [sic] paid liar, their spokesperson, picture behind, he's still making up things about what happens in calling this local rogue. There's no indication -- the reason the Lois Lerner tried to take the fifth is not because there is a rogue in Cincinnati, 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.
ISSA: 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.
Now, I'm not making any allegations as to motive, that they set out to do it. But certainly people knew it was happening that could have done something and would have done something, I'm sure, if these had been progressive groups or groups that supported the president. That's what I think we know. [CNN.com, 6/2/13]
Rep. Cummings Issues Statement Refuting Issa's Allegations
Cummings: Issa's Comments Are "Reckless" And "Inconsistent With The Findings Of The Inspector General." In a statement released June 3, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform of which Issa is chairman, said that Issa has provided no evidence to back up his claim that IRS officials in Washington were complicit in the targeting:
So far, no witnesses who have appeared before the Committee have identified any IRS official in Washington DC who directed employees in Cincinnati to use 'tea party' or similar terms to screen applicants for extra scrutiny. Chairman Issa's reckless statements today are inconsistent with the findings of the Inspector General, who spent more than a year conducting his investigation. Rather than lobbing unsubstantiated conclusions on national television for political reasons, we need to work in a bipartisan way to follow the facts where they lead and ensure that the IG's recommendations are fully implemented. We must have a sincere effort to uncover the truth so that we can restore the public's trust in the IRS. [Statement of Rep. Elijah Cummings, 6/2/13]
Media Give One-Sided Account Of Selectively Leaked IRS Emails
Fox Host MacCallum: "Issa Says" Cincinnati Agents Told His Committee "They Don't Even Have The Power" To Stall Applications. On the June 3 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, co-hosts Martha MacCallum and Bill Hemmer discussed Issa's interview with contributor Mike Emanuel, but made no mention of Cummings' remarks:
MACCALLUM: Top Republican Darrell Issa says that agents from the Cincinnati office, remember we were told there are just a few rogue agents out there right? They told his committee according to him, they don't even have the power to hold up these applications, and that they're being thrown under the bus. [Fox News, 6/3/13, via Media Matters]
NY Times: Issa Said Washington Officials Knew Of The IRS' Focus On Conservative Groups But Covered It Up During The Presidential Election. In a June 2 article, The New York Times parroted Issa's baseless claims even while recognizing that none of the activities described in the transcripts of the IRS officials' interviews "constituted evidence of wrongdoing at the White House":
The committee's chairman, Representative Darrell Issa of California, let loose a volley of accusations on Sunday that seemed to end a brief period of restraint for him. He said Washington officials had known of the flagging of applicants for tax-exempt status but had covered it up during the presidential election and allowed groups that were "not a friend of the president to be disenfranchised through an election."
"My gut tells me that too many people knew that this wrongdoing was going on before the election," he said Sunday on the CNN program "State of the Union."
Mr. Issa ratcheted up the pressure over the weekend with the selective release of excerpts from continuing committee interviews with I.R.S. employees in Cincinnati involved in the added scrutiny of Tea Party groups and other conservative associations.
In one excerpt, an employee said I.R.S. officials in Washington as far back as March 2010 had ordered up the screening of tax-exemption applications for references to "Tea Party" and other conservative keywords. By April that year, the employee had forwarded 7 of around 40 screened cases to Washington.
Another employee told committee investigators of seeking another job in July 2010 because of "micromanagement" from Washington.
"It was the whole Tea Party. It was the whole picture," the employee said, according to the excerpt. "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."
None of that constituted evidence of wrongdoing at the White House, but Republicans suggested on Sunday that such evidence would emerge in due time. [The New York Times, 6/2/13]
Wall Street Journal: Congressional Republicans "Suggest Washington Officials Underplayed Their Involvement." The Wall Street Journal also cited the comments of Congressional Republicans to implicate Washington officials:
Congressional Republicans separately on Sunday released excerpts from interviews by congressional investigators with two unnamed IRS employees that the lawmakers say suggest Washington officials underplayed their involvement in the Cincinnati office's extra scrutiny of conservative organizations. Both IRS employees, who work in Cincinnati, are quoted saying they were following orders that originated in Washington to target tea-party and other conservative groups. [The Wall Street Journal, 6/2/13]