Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland) made a move yesterday that could embarrass his Republican colleague Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif), when he released the full transcript of the congressional interview of an IRS employee during the investigation into whether the White House orchestrated greater scrutiny of tax-exempt applications from tea party-connected groups.
Cummings said the allegations against the White House were ridiculous and he had the interview transcripts to prove it—particularly the transcripts of an interview with a self-described “conservative Republican” from the Cincinnati office of the IRS that was responsible for scrutinizing the tea party applications.
While Issa, who has been implying that the interviews prove White House involvement, warned Cummings that he shouldn’t release the transcripts, Cummings ignored him—reportedly infuriating Issa.
Cummings and Issa are the highest ranking members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
“He is a conservative Republican working for the IRS. I think this interview and these statements go a long way toward showing that the White House was not involved in this,” Cummings said, after he saw the interview transcript. “Based upon everything I’ve seen, the case is solved. And if it were me, I would wrap this case up and move on.”
Issa, who has released selected transcripts to bolster his argument of White House involvement, warned Cummings that releasing the full transcripts was “reckless” and detrimental to the ongoing investigation, while he defended his “limited releases of testimony.”
But Cummings said his intent was to debunk “conspiracy theories about how the IRS first started reviewing these cases,” such as Issa’s “serious and unsubstantiated accusations” to CBS on June 14.
Issa yesterday said he was “deeply disappointed” that Cummings released the transcript, arguing that it “will serve as a roadmap for IRS officials to navigate investigative interviews with Congress.”
After reading through the transcript of the interview with Cincinnati IRS manager John Shafer, writer Taylor Marsh concluded, “It’s now obvious why Issa didn’t want the full transcript made available to the public.”
“With a ‘self-described conservative Republican’ offering what sure seems to be the exonerating evidence, Mr. Issa looks like a complete buffoon,” she writes.
But the accusations against the White House, even if false, are having an effect on the public: a CNN poll found that 55 percent of Americans thought the Obama administration was involved in the scandal, up from 37 percent.