Rapid Response: Issa Blocks Cummings Request To Release IRS Interview Transcripts
At today’s business meeting before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to hold former IRS official Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress, Chairman Darrell Issa objected to a request by Ranking Member Elijah Cummings to release the full transcripts of all interviews with IRS and Treasury employees conducted during the Committee’s investigation.
In response, Cummings said: “These transcripts show definitively that the Chairman’s accusations that the IRS engaged in political collusion directed by—or on behalf of—the White House are baseless. Rather than release them to the American people, the Chairman has chosen to block transparency.”
The full transcripts demonstrate definitively that the White House played no role in directing IRS employees to use inappropriate terms to screen tax-exempt applicants, and they show that there was no political bias behind those actions. Instead, they explain in detail how the inappropriate terms were first developed and used by IRS employees in Cincinnati, overseen by a self-identified “conservative Republican.”
The transcripts directly refute the accusation Issa made on national television that: “This was the targeting of President’s political enemies effectively and lies about it during the election year.”
On June 9, 2013, Cummings sent a letter asking Issa to publicly release these transcripts—more than nine months ago—yet Issa blocked his request today.
The motion by Cummings would have required the Committee to publicly release the transcripts by May 1 to give the Chairman time to review them for sensitive material, and it would have allowed Issa to make any redactions he deemed appropriate.
Despite these common-sense provision, Issa said that he “cannot support” this release, that it is “ill-advised,” and that the release would “provide a roadmap” for future interviews.
Unfortunately, Issa has already crossed this bridge. Over the past year, Issa has chosen to leak selected excerpts from interview transcripts and withhold portions that directly contradict his public accusations. For example, on June 2, 2013, he leaked cherry-picked transcript excerpts prior to an appearance on national television. When pressed on why he provided only portions instead of the full transcripts, he responded: “these transcripts will all be made public.”
In addition, Issa allowed select reporters to come into the Committee’s offices to review full, unredacted transcripts from several interviews with employees other than the Screening Group Manager. For example:
• USA Today reported that Chairman Issa allowed its reporters to review the full transcript of IRS official Holly Paz: “USA TODAY reviewed all 222 pages of the transcript of her interview.”
• The Wall Street Journal reported that he allowed its reporters to review the full Paz transcript: “The Wall Street Journal reviewed the transcript of her interview in recent days.”
• Reuters reported that he allowed its reporters to review the full Paz transcript as well: “Reuters has reviewed the interview transcript.”
• The Associated Press reported that he allowed its reporters to review not only the full Paz transcript, but also transcripts of interviews with two other IRS officials: “The Associated Press has reviewed transcripts from three interviews—with Paz and with two agents, Gary Muthert and Elizabeth Hofacre.”
• Politico also reported that its reporters were given access to full transcripts of interviews “conducted by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and reviewed by POLITICO.”