Obama doubles down on condemnation of IRS in press conference

Katie LaPotin, Red Alert Politics, May 16, 2013

President Barack Obama stressed Thursday afternoon that his main priority right now is to find out what led to the Internal Revenue Service applying unwarranted scrutiny to the filings of conservative non-profits, and that those involved in the scandal will be held responsible for their actions.

He also maintained that he was completely unaware of the scandal until it was first reported in the news Friday, despite the fact that members of his administration were briefed on the Inspector’s General report last month.

“I can assure you that I certainly did not know anything about the IG report had been leaked to press, to the press,” Obama said during a joint White House press conference with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. “Typically the IG reports are not supposed to be widely distributed or shared.  They tend to be  a process that everybody’s trying to protect the integrity of. But what I’m absolutely certain of is that the actions that were described in that IG report are unacceptable.”

The president also defended his previous comments that the IRS scandal is not a partisan issue, and that it could have happened to anyone – not just conservatives.

“But that’s also why we gotta make sure that it is doing its job scrupulously and without even a hint of bias or a hint that somehow they’re favoring one group over another,” he said. “And as I said yesterday, I’m outraged by this and partly because look I’m a public figure.  If a future administration is starting to use tax laws to favor one party over another or one or one political view over another obviously we’re all vulnerable.  And that’s why as I said, it doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat or a Republican, you should be equally outraged at even the prospect that the IRS might not be acting with the kind of complete neutrality that we expect.”

The president announced shortly after the press conference that he will be naming Daniel Werfel as the new acting commissioner of the IRS.  On Wednesday Treasury Secretary Jack Lew asked for and received the resignation of the acting IRS director, Steven Miller. He also said that he reviewed the Inspector General’s report earlier this week and plans on implementing the three main proposals from the report, including working “hand in hand with Congress” as it performs its own investigation into the agency.

“My main concern is fixing the problem and we began that process yesterday by asking and accepting the resignation of the acting director there,” Obama added. “We will be putting in new leadership that will be able to make sure that, following up on the IG audit, that we gather up all the facts, that we hold accountable those who have taken these outrageous actions.  As I said last night, it is just simply unacceptable for there to even be a hint of partisanship or ideology when it comes to the application of our tax laws.”

Kaitlyn Schallhorn and Arrianne Talma also contributed. The article has been updated to reflect the announcement of Daniel Werfel as the next acting IRS commissioner. 

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