Treasury secretary Jack Lew on Sunday got specific about President Obama’s contention that “phony scandals” are distracting lawmakers from tackling the important issues facing the country. With regard to the IRS’s targeting of tea-party groups, Lew said, there is “no evidence” that any political appointee was involved in the matter, and “The attempt to try to keep finding that evidence is creating the kind of sense of a phony scandal that was being referred to there.” “We have to distinguish reality from the part that is phony,” Lew told NBC’s David Gregory. He went on to try to do so.
“The attempts to keep finding that evidence” are presumably those being made by congressional investigators in both the House and the Senate. Though he didn’t say it outright, Lew suggested that the investigations should come to an end: “There was a problem, the problem has been addressed, and there was no political involvement that there is any evidence of,” he told Fox News’ Chris Wallace. The treasury secretary went on to say, ”There were a number of supervisors, all career, who exercised bad judgment, who were relieved of their responsibilities.” That’s technically true: Lois Lerner, Holly Paz, Joseph Grant, and others are no longer serving in their previous capacities at IRS headquarters. Last we knew, Lerner and Paz were placed on paid administrative leave, and Grant retired. But lawmakers haven’t yet been able
to get an answer about whether they are still getting paid, for example, or whether they received performance bonuses.
Though Lew was certain at points that we’ve gotten to the bottom of this scandal, he’s actually not so sure whether any political appointees were involved. Pressed by Chris Wallace, he conceded that neither he nor anybody at the Treasury Department has asked whether William Wilkins, the IRS’s chief counsel, played a role in the targeting of conservative groups. (Recall that President Obama charged Lew with investigating the scandal.) Lew insisted that he is ”leaving the investigation to the proper people who do investigations” because, “I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to do the investigations.” Nonetheless, he reiterated that there is “no political official who condoned or authorized it.”
ISSA AND CAMP WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO IRS EMPLOYEES INVOLVED IN SCANDAL –
Several lawmakers are asking the Internal Revenue Service about the actions it has taken against employees implicated in the agency’s targeting of tea-party groups. “Was [former commissioner of the Tax Exempt and Government Entities division] Joseph Grant asked to resign, and if so, on what grounds?” congressmen Darrell Issa and Dave Camp asked in a letter to the IRS’s acting administrator Danny Werfel. The lawmakers are also inquiring about the status of the agency’s former director of Exempt Organizations, Lois Lerner, and its former director of Rulings and Agreements, Holly Paz. “Were these individuals asked to resign, and if so, who requested their resignation and on what specific grounds? Do these individuals have access to IRS systems (including electronic mail), documents, or physical property?”
Iowa senator Chuck Grassley has also demanded information on Lerner’s employment status.