Another investigation, another stonewall by the administration. I'm sorry, but if the IRS has nothing to hide, why drag their feet on requests from committees for documents?
House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said Friday that he would subpoena documents from the IRS over its scrutiny of Tea Party groups, accusing the agency of stonewalling its requests.
At a Friday hearing, Issa said that the IRS had been slow to give up documents to congressional committees, and that many of the materials the Oversight panel had received were unusable due to redactions.
The California Republican, in a tense exchange with the interim leader of the IRS, Danny Werfel, also said that the agency's chief counsel's office had been compromised and should no longer be taking part in the investigation.
"Apparently, you were put in by the administration to run cover until somebody new would come in," Issa told Werfel, who took over the agency less than two weeks after the IRS disclosed and apologized for singling out Tea Party groups seeking tax-exempt status.
In a release, the Oversight panel said the subpoena to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew would seek all the emails sent and received by Lois Lerner and Holly Paz, two IRS officials who dealt with exempt organizations and are at the center of the controversy.
Issa is also looking for all the emails involving William Wilkins, the IRS chief counsel and one of two political appointees at the agency. Issa and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) have raised concerns that Wilkins's office, which has some 1,600 attorneys, showed unusual interest in Tea Party applications.
The IRS has said that Wilkins himself played no part in the vetting of tax-exempt applications.
In all, Oversight says, the IRS has given the committee roughly 12,500 pages out of some 64 million documents the agency originally thought to be relevant.
Around 2,500 pages of those are fully redacted, the committee says, all part of what Issa called a "systematic effort to delay, frustrate, impede, and obstruct" in a Friday letter to Lew. Camp has also complained about the pace of the IRS's response, and also suggested the agency was obstructing the congressional investigation.
"I've asked you for information. You're not forthcoming," Issa told Werfel. "You are leaving me no choice."
We already know that the IRS chief counsel was in phone contact with employees involved in vetting tea party applications. Those emails requested by Issa may be follow ups to those phone calls and thus reveal what the chief counsel was up to.
There is also the question of double teaming tea party groups with the IRS and FEC going after them cooperatively. This "phony" scandal has no bottom to it yet as revelations continue to leak out and IRS officials look more guilty all the time.