Rep. Elijah Cummings releases a full IRS interview transcript

The House Oversight Committee’s top Democrat on Tuesday released the full transcript of a congressional interview that he said “debunks conspiracy theories” about the IRS targeting controversy.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), ranking member of the committee, produced a complete interview transcript in which an IRS manager in Cincinnati said he elevated the first tea party case that led the agency to begin singling out conservative groups for extra scrutiny.

Cliff Owen/AP - Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Elijah Cummings (D-Md.).
Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Elijah Cummings (D-Md.). (Cliff Owen/AP)

Cummings released partial transcripts from the manager’s interview last week, prompting warnings from committee chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) about releasing full interviews.

Issa said in a letter to his Democratic counterpart that such leaks could help future witnesses “devise testimony consistent with the narrative that previous witnesses presented to committee investigators.”

Issa’s staff had already made some congressional interviews available to the media at that point.

Cummings last week said the chairman’s disclosures posed “exactly the same risk,” and he challenged Issa to identify and justify each line from the Cincinnati manager’s interview that he wanted withheld. Issa had not responded to the request by Tuesday.

The chairman said in a statement Tuesday that Cummings’ document dump will “serve as a roadmap for IRS officials to navigate investigative interviews with Congress.”

“After unsuccessfully trying to convince the American people that IRS officials in Washington did not play a role in inappropriate scrutiny of tea party groups and declaring on national television that the case of IRS targeting was ‘solved’ and Congress should ‘move on,’ this looks like flailing,” Issa added.

The Cincinnati manager in the transcript revealed Tuesday is a self-described “conservative Republican” who told congressional investigators that he asked Washington IRS officials for guidance on a tea party case on Feb. 25, 2010, the same date listed in an inspector general’s report as the genesis of the IRS’s targeting efforts.

The Cincinnati supervisor also confirmed that an IRS screener from his office developed the controversial search criteria that the agency used to identify groups for extra scrutiny.

“These facts are a far cry from accusations of a conspiracy orchestrated by the White House to target the president’s political enemies,” Cummings said in a letter to Issa on Tuesday.

Cummings acknowledged in his letter on Tuesday that Washington — but not the White House — was partially responsible for the IRS controversy. “I am not suggesting that IRS employees in Washington, D.C. played no role in these activities,” he said.

Cummings noted that Lois Lerner, one of the Washington-based IRS officials who oversaw the agency’s tax-exemption division, knew about the inappropriate search criteria in 2011. He also acknowledged that other IRS officials in the capital coordinated with Cincinnati in the application-review process, part of which involved improper questioning, according to the inspector general.

For more federal news, visit The Federal Eye, The Fed Page and Post Politics. To connect with Josh Hicks, follow his Twitter feed, friend his Facebook page or e-mail josh.hicks@washpost.comE-mail federalworker@washpost.com with news tips and other suggestions.

Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.
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