House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.) told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” Thursday he did not accept the White House’s excuse that it could not step in and stop the IRS from targeting conservative groups because it was an independent investigation.
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN: The question about what they knew and when they knew it and when they told us, how much of that is an issue in your mind right now, given that we now have learned that members of the administration did know about the investigation or at least knew it was happening as early as December 2012, but then also people like Darrell Issa knew and what their responsibilities should have been then to tell the public about it?
CANTOR: I can speak to my frustration about the administration’s action or lack of action. If you’ve got an ongoing IG investigation or audit and there comes to you information about this type of behavior where you are discriminating against political opponents, I do not accept the fact that the White House says we couldn’t interfere with that audit or that investigation. That’s not true. If they knew that kind of activity was going on, that is clearly a point at which they should have gone in and said ‘Don’t do that anymore,’ and that would not have interfered with the continuance of that investigation by the Inspector General. So we’re trying to get to the bottom of this to find out who knew what when, but clearly these actions that have come out on the part of the IRS and its employees are unacceptable.
White House senior officials learned in April that an investigation would almost certainly reveal the IRS targeted conservative groups. Spokesman Jay Carney said President Obama did not ask advisors why he learned of the agency’s behavior through news reports instead of his own staff, but Carney stressed that regardless the administration could and would not interfere with an independent investigation.
Cantor also said he was frustrated with the Congressional probe of the scandal and the struggle to get answers from top IRS officials.
Lois Lerner, the head of the IRS tax-exempt organization office during the targeting, read a statement Wednesday before the House Oversight Committee denying any wrongdoing before invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
“This is something that reflects the frustration that is growing about this investigation,” Cantor said. “Ms. Lerner is an employee of the taxpayers, the people of this country. We need the answers. She should be providing that to the people she works for, and we’re going to continue to try to get to the bottom of what looks like a growing instance of an egregious abuse of power.”
Also, former acting commissioner Steven Miller’s contentious and evasive testimony last week revealed what one Republican called a tangible “arrogance” from the agency, and former commissioner Doug Shulman said Wednesday that one of the reasons for his 118 visits to the White House during his tenure was for the Easter Egg roll. Shulman previously testified while he was commissioner in 2012 that no such conservative targeting was taking place when it had been known since 2011 that such organizations were being inappropriately scrutinized.