In another House Oversight Committee hearing today, Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole was subpoenaed to testify. Cole was specifically asked to answer questions about the investigation of the IRS by the Department of Justice.
Congressman Jim Jordan, who was chairing the hearing, opened with a strong statement condemning the DOJ’s lack of response to the allegations against the IRS:
Four days after the IRS leaked they were targeting conservatives, the DOJ under Holder said they were outraged and were going to investigate. That was last May and we have heard nothing more. How much more will it take for the administration to appoint a special prosecutor?
The ranking member, Elijah Cummings, said Republicans were only being zealous because they were looking for an opportunity to attack the administration and find a conspiracy theory:
Republicans have blamed the White House for over a year. There is no evidence to suggest the White House is directly involved. We have conducted over forty of these committees for the actions of a person in Cincinnati. The IG has testified several times that the White House was not involved. The Republicans have accused the U.S. AG’s office of a government-wide conspiracy to shut down conservative speech. The accusation that there was a list to criminally prosecute conservatives is ridiculous.
Several Democratic members echoed Cummings’ remarks. Cole’s opening statement pushed back against Congressman Jordan:
When the allegations of IRS targeting surfaced in May of 2013, the attorney general immediately ordered a thorough investigation of them. That criminal investigation is being conducted by career attorneys and agents of the department’s criminal and civil rights divisions, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA). I have the utmost confidence in the career professionals in the Department and the TIGTA, and I know that they will follow the facts wherever they lead and apply the law to those facts.
Throughout questioning, Congressman Jordan repeatedly brought up the fact that the DOJ had been handed confidential taxpayer information by Lois Lerner, and accused it of deliberately and maliciously going after conservatives. “You had to go to Lois Lerner to look for public info with private info on it,” he said. “It is formatted the way you want it. It contains confidential information on taxpayers.” Cole pushed back on the claims, calling the incident an “accident” and saying “none of it was used,” even though they were in possession of the disk with the confidential information for four years.
Questions then rose about the manner in which the investigations were proceeding. Congressman Trey Gowdy questioned Cole over the witnesses of the case. “Have witnesses been brought in front of a grand jury? Subpoenas been issued? How many?” To which Cole admitted he did not know how many had been interviewed or appeared in front of a grand jury.
Republicans have been growing increasingly frustrated with their inability to get answers about the IRS scandal. Aggravation has increased so much that Congressman Steve Stockman introduced a resolution to arrest Lois Lerner, and Chairman Darrell Issa is mulling another contempt vote for the head of the White House Office Political Strategy and Outreach David Simas, who ignored a subpoena and skipped a committee hearing yesterday.