Addressing the controversy over the Internal Revenue Service's treatment of conservative political groups seeking tax-exempt status, President Obama said that Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew had requested and received the resignation of acting IRS commissioner Steven Miller.
"I am angry about it," Obama said. He had previously called the accusations "outrageous."
According to CNN, Miller was told of the IRS's targeting of Tea Party groups on May 3, 2012, but did not disclose it to Congress. He will testify before the House Ways and Means Committee on Friday, and step down from his position at the IRS in early June.
"The president set exactly the right tone," said Congressman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), appearing on the cable news network. Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and frequently a thorn in the administration's side, added that removing an official who had mislead Congress and made false statements was a good first step towards addressing the scandal.
Although the president spoke of Miller's resigning, the acting commissioner's internal message to IRS employees begins, "It is with regret that I will be departing from the IRS as my acting assignment ends in early June." Miller acknowledged "an incredibly difficult time for the IRS given the events of the past few days," and wrote that his focus will be on ensuring "an orderly transition." He has worked at the IRS for 25 years.
According to the Associated Press, "IRS agents begin giving extra attention to tax-exempt applications from groups associated with the tea party or with a political sounding agenda in their names, such as 'Patriots,' ''Take Back the Country' or 'We the People'" in March and April 2010. A "BOLO" ("Be on the Lookout") listing was issued for "various various local organizations in the Tea Party movement" that August.
In June 2011, lawmakers began to send letters to the IRS inquiring about the agency's handling of such groups' applications for tax-exempt status. The IRS official in charge of overseeing tax-exempt organizations was briefed about the special focus on Tea Party groups, and told agents to change their procedures, but she didn't mention the targeting when testifying before Congress six months later.
Here's the AP's summary of subsequent events:
January: The criteria for screening, altered after Lerner's staff meeting six months earlier, is modified again. Now the IRS is on the lookout for references to the Constitution or Bill of Rights in the materials of organizations seeking tax-exempt status, for "political action type organizations involved in limiting/expanding government," and more.
March 22: IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman tells Congress there is "absolutely no targeting" of groups based on their political views.
May: Lerner does not divulge the flagging in 45-page letters to two lawmakers inquiring about the issue.
May 3: Deputy Commissioner Steven Miller is told by staff that that applications for tax-exempt status by tea party groups were inappropriately singled out for extra scrutiny, according to the agency. (Miller now is acting commissioner.)
June 15: Miller responds to a letter from Rep. Charles Boustany, R-La., who had raised concerns about possible harassment of tea party groups by the IRS. Miller does not concede conservatives had been singled out. He says generally that the IRS is seeing more tax-exempt applications from politically active groups and taking steps to "coordinate the handling of the case to ensure consistency."
July 25: Miller testifies to the House Ways and Means oversight subcommittee but does not divulge what he was told in May about the screening of tea party groups.
Sept. 11: Millers writes a letter responding to Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee but again does not own up to the scrutiny conservatives were placed under. Hatch had written three times to the IRS about the complaints.
Nov. 6: The presidential and congressional elections.
Nov. 15: Lerner and others from the IRS meet Ways and Means staff but again do not acknowledge the targeting.
Week of April 22: White House counsel learns that the inspector general is finishing a report about the IRS office in Cincinnati, which handles tax-exempt applications, according to White House spokesman Jay Carney.
May 10: Lerner apologizes on behalf of the IRS for "inappropriate" targeting of conservatives; White House counsel is said to receive inspector general's report; President Barack Obama is said to have heard of the matter for the first time. Lerner says no high-level officials were aware of the targeting, a statement seemingly at odds with the timeline of events, and blamed low-level employees in Cincinnati.
May 13: Obama says if the IRS intentionally went after conservatives, that's "outrageous." The Democratic-controlled Senate Finance Committee joins Republican-led House committees in planning fresh investigations of the matter.
May 14: Miller says his agency demonstrated "a lack of sensitivity" in trying to figure out whether organizations claiming a tax exemption met the standard for it. The Justice Department says it will conduct a criminal investigation, the inspector general's report is released, and Obama calls the findings "intolerable and inexcusable."
May 15: In congressional testimony, Attorney General Eric Holder says the FBI's investigation could include potential civil rights violations, false statements and potential violations of the law prohibiting federal employees from engaging in some partisan political activities.
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