Who needs the Secret Service when you have Elijah Cummings on your side?
House Oversight and Reform Committee ranking member Cummings defied Chairman Darrell Issa this week by releasing transcripts of testimony from an IRS employee, which he says completely absolves the White House from any responsibility.
Cummings has been pushing for the committee to stop investigating the IRS targeting of conservatives for some time, saying “the case is solved” on CNN nearly two weeks ago. He doesn’t think the targeting can be linked to Washington and continues to rely on the “rogue Cincinnati employee” narrative, even after those “rogue” employees testified otherwhise.
The testimony Cummings released states that John Shafer, the employee being interviewed, has no reason to believe the targeting was ordered by the White House:
QUESTION: Do you have any reason to believe that anyone in the White House was involved in the decision to screen Tea Party cases?
ANSWER: I have no reason to believe that.
QUESTION: Do you have any reason to believe that anyone in the White House was involved in the decision to centralize the review of Tea Party cases?
ANSWER: I have no reason to believe that.
There is a difference, however, in having no reason believe something happened, and proving that it didn’t.
As Issa pointed out in a response to Cummings’ statements, this testimony doesn’t give Washington a free pass:
Mr. Shafer in fact testified that he had no personal knowledge “whatsoever” about the motivations of Washington officials involved in the Tea Party cases. Indeed, Mr. Shafer testified that he had no personal involvement with the Tea Party applications after they were identified by IRS screeners as “Tea Party” cases and forwarded to Washington, D.C. for additional scrutiny.
It is also important to note the difference between Washington and the White House. We don’t have proof at this point that the White House was or wasn’t involved, but we do know that Washington employees were.
Cummings seems to think that Washington employees knew about the targeting but played absolutely no role in it:
To be clear, I am not suggesting that IRS employees in Washington, D.C. played no role in these activities. For example, the Inspector General has already reported that Lois Lerner, the Director of Exempt Organizations at the IRS, became aware of the use of inappropriate criteria in 2011…. According to the Inspector General, after Ms. Lerner learned of the terms used by the screeners, she immediately ordered a halt to the use of these terms, resulting in a change to the BOLO in July 2011 to apply to all organizations “involved with political, lobbying, or advocacy for exemption under 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(4).”
According to another employee’s testimony, though, Washington specifically requested the cases.
Issa is clearly releasing information strategically to keep the scandal alive—but that doesn’t mean that Cummings had the right to release additional testimony. He is clearly doing everything in his power to stop this investigation from going forward. As Issa rightly explained in his letter to Cummings, the testimony gives future interviewees a “roadmap of the Committee’s investigation.”
At this point, it seems like we don’t know more than we do know, and that is why Issa’s investigation needs to continue. We know the targeting did not begin in Cincinnati, according to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp based on testimony he has reviewed.
Cummings needs to get out of the way and let the investigation continue responsibly, instead of doing everything in his power to block it, just to protect Obama.
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