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Acting IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel, who was appointed by President Obama, has released his 30-day report into the targeting wrongdoings of the IRS. Yesterday, Werfel testified as to his preliminary findings in front of the House Ways And Means Committee. Included in Werfel's findings, which he admitted were preliminary and "inconclusive", was this statement (I'm going off my own notes, written as I watched the hearings on C-SPAN. I can find no transcript of the hearings online):
Werfel: "We have not found evidence of intentional wrongdoing by anyone at the IRS, or involvement of anyone in these matters by anyone outside the IRS".
This statement was used by partisan bad actors to dismiss the IRS scandal, even though Werfel's statement did no such thing (more on that to come). For example, here's what MSNBC's pseudo-newsman Lawrence O'Donnell had to say of Werfel's report. Notice the dismissive tone and alleged finality in O'Donnell's "reporting":
In yet another hearing about the so-called IRS scandal, acting IRS commissioner Danny Werfel answered questions from lawmakers on the Ways and Means committee Thursday.
On Monday, Werfel issued a report after investigating whether or not there was intentional wrongdoing by IRS employees who targeted conservative groups for extra scrutiny. The report found a certain amount of mismangement but no intentional wrongdoing.
Thanks, Lawrence, but let's do some real reporting. Here's Werfel being questioned by Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI). In this, we'll find out exactly how non-final are Werfel's findings:
Camp: For the purposes of preparing your report, did you speak to former commissioner Doug Schulman ?
Werfel: I did not.
Camp: Did you speak to former acting commissioner Steve Miller ?
Werfel: I did not.
Camp: Did you talk with Joseph Grant, the former Deputy Commissioner for TEGE [Tax Exempt Groups]:
Werfel: No, I did not.
Camp: Did you speak with Lois Lerner, the former Director Of Exempt Organizations ?
Werfel: I did not.
Camp: Do you know who in Washington DC directed the lawyers at the Exempt Organizations Techinical Office to hold up the Tea Party applications ?
Werfel: I do not know the answer to that question.
How can any conclusions be reached when Werfel hasn't even spoken to the key players involved ? This is only a smattering of what took place, but what the hearings REALLY revealed is, Werfel is nowhere near to discovering the whole truth of this IRS scandal, and even though he said in his report that there was no intentional wrongdoing, and that nobody outside the IRS was involved, he has no idea if that is true or not. Werfel was forced to admit numerous times that he doesn't know the truth, and that his investigation is ongoing. Instead of drawing preliminary conclusions based on admittedly incomplete data, Werfel should have simply stated that he doesn't have the full story yet. Sadly, he did not, and partisan hacks are running with his incomplete information that amounts to a political statement rather than being an honest evaluation of events.
Another point Democrats attempted to make during yesterday's hearings was that the word "progressives" was also targeted by the IRS, just as were "Tea Party" and "patriots". The Democrats attempted to use this information to say there was no selective persecution of the Tea Party, but this partisan spin failed miserably. Here's Chairman Camp again:
Camp: (reading from the Treasury Inspector General's audit report): "from our audit work, we did not find evidence that "progressives" were used by the IRS to select potential political cases during the 2010 to 2012 [targeting] timeframe. We found no indication in any materials that "progressives" was a term used to refer cases for scrutiny for potential campaign intervention".
Camp to Werfel: Does any part of your 30-day report contradict that recent letter and finding by the Inspector General ?
Werfel: No, i don't think any part of our report contradicts it.
Camp: ...only Tea Party groups were referred for extra scrutiny, isn't that right ? That's what we know so far.
Werfel: That's what the evidence points to so far.
What appears to actually have happened is, some "progressive" groups were flagged, but there is no evidence at this point that any were delayed or given the additional and even illegal scrutiny received by Tea Party groups.
Here's more testimony along those lines. This is questioning from Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA).
Reichert: Do you know how many "progressive" groups were flagged ?
Werfel: I do not have that number.
Reichert: I do...there were seven flagged. Do you know how many were approved ?
Werfel: I do not have that information at my fingertips.
Reichert: All of those applications were approved.
As much as political hacks like Lawrence O'Donnell would like us to believe there's nothing to see here...there's something to see here. We've had IRS officials mislead Congress and develop amnesia. We've had IRS officials refuse to testify. We've had Tea Party group tax exempt applications languish in Congress for years (Werfel said they are supposed to be approved or denied within 90 days). At the same time, progressive groups were being approved...and we're supposed to believe that it was NOT intentional ? How could it be anything other than intentional ? The IRS didn't trip and accidentally drop all the Tea Party applications into the "Delay/Do Not Approve" bin. They CHOSE to do what they did. We should have an independent prosecutor investigate this matter instead of a guy chosen by President Obama. This is nothing against Werfel, who I know little about, but he knows who is buttering his bread. At one point in the hearings, Werfel said the interviews with the IRS employees involved in the targeting were being conducted by the Justice Department. That's OBAMA'S Justice Dept., led by his political ally, Attorney General Eric Holder. Do we really believe the Obama administration should investigate itself in this matter ? How does that make any sense ? I'm not saying in any way that Obama is involved, because there's no evidence of that, but all the people concerned do work for him. They are not independent. This investigation should be.