Revenue,Benghazi scandals hurt Obama

IRS chief ousted over tax scrutiny given to Republican groups

Written by New York Times | Washington | Published: May 17, 2013 1:29 am

IRS chief ousted over tax scrutiny given to Republican groups

President Obama announced Wednesday night that the acting commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service had been ousted after disclosures that the agency gave special scrutiny to conservative groups. Attorney General Eric H Holder Jr,meanwhile,warned top IRS officials that a Justice Department inquiry would examine any false statements to see if they constituted a crime.

Speaking in the White House’s formal East Room,Obama said Treasury Secretary Jacob J Lew had accepted the resignation of the acting commissioner,Steven Miller,who as deputy commissioner was aware of the agency’s efforts to demand more information from conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status in early 2012.

“Americans have a right to be angry about it,and I’m angry about it,” Obama said. “It should not matter what political stripe you’re from. The fact of the matter is the IRS has to operate with absolute integrity.”

Miller,who told agency employees that he would leave the administration in early June,is scheduled to testify Friday before the House Ways and Means Committee in the first of a series of hearings on the IRS activities.

The president acted as his administration broadly stepped up pressure on the IRS — and sought to insulate itself from the outcry over the agency’s conduct. Obama spoke to reporters after an Oval Office meeting with Lew and his deputy,Neil Wolin,who will be responsible for carrying out the president’s orders to install safeguards to prevent a similar effort.

In an internal message to employees,Miller,a 25-year veteran of the IRS,wrote: “This has been an incredibly difficult time for the IRS,given the events of the past few days,and there is a strong and immediate need to restore public trust in the nation’s tax agency. I believe the service will benefit from having a new acting commissioner.”

Mr. Holder’s warning came as lawmakers stated unequivocally that I.R.S. officials had lied to them in failing to disclose the added screening despite being pressed repeatedly.

At a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday,Holder said the Justice Department would investigate whether the civil rights of groups or individuals,and statutes governing IRS conduct,had been violated. But Holder also said,“False-statement violations might have been made,given at least what I know at this point.”

JONATHAN WEISMAN

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