Boehner on IRS scandal: ‘Who’s going to jail over this scandal?’

Officials at the Internal Revenue Service responsible for targeting conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status should be imprisoned, House Speaker John A. Boehner said Wednesday.


The exterior of the Internal Revenue Service building in Washington March 22, 2013. (Susan Walsh/AP)

"My question isn’t about who’s going to resign, my question is who’s going to jail over this scandal?" Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters at a Wednesday morning news conference.

A watchdog report released Tuesday described the IRS's tax-exempt unit -- where the screening of conservative groups occurred -- as a bureaucratic mess, with some employees ignorant about tax laws, defiant of their supervisors and blind to the appearance of impropriety.

Top IRS officials have apologized for targeting certain groups, and the agency's acting director scheduled to testify Friday before the House Ways and Means Committee.

Pressed to clarify who exactly should go to jail, Boehner suggested that forthcoming investigations would likely identify culpable individuals.

"There are laws in place to prevent this type of abuse. Someone made a conscious decision to harass and to hold up these requests for tax-exempt status. I think we need to know who they are and whether they violated the law. Clearly someone violated the law," Boehner said.

Boehner and his leadership team also opined on continuing investigations into the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on U.S. compounds in Benghazi, Libya, and an admission by the Justice Department that it obtained telephone records of Associated Press reporters in connection with a leak investigation.

On Benghazi, Boehner said the White House "could make this a lot easier for all Americans by coming forward with e-mails that they’ve shown us in some cases, but have not turned over to us. I don’t want to prolong this anymore than anyone else. What I want is the truth."

On the Justice Department's targeting of the AP, Boehner said he's "very interested and I’m hopeful that we’re going to get a clear explanation for why such unprecedented action was taken. It befuddles me that there could be some justification that would allow them to infringe on the First Amendment to the Constitution."

Boehner's deputies sought to place the GOP-led House above the questions and accusations facing the White House. Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said the chamber is "going to proceed obviously in our work here in the House, bearing in mind that we’ve got to restore the trust in government and we’ve got to restore the faith in our economy."

"There are questions that are being asked, and we’re accountable to the families of the victims of Benghazi, we certainly are accountable to the taxpayers and the people of this country as to the actions of the IRS, and we certainly have plenty of questions that are accountable to the press, in terms of its First Amendment rights and its ability to enjoy those and realize those," Cantor said.

Seeking to sum things up in a soundbite as she often does when House Republican leaders hold their weekly news conference, Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.), a deputy whip, described news of the scandal as "Washington gone wild."

"It makes us miss the days of Harry Truman, when the buck stopped at the president’s office," she said.

Follow Ed O'Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost

Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.

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