In a brief statement from the White House this evening, President Barack Obama tried to get ahead of the IRS scandal by laying out a three-point plan for punishment and prevention of any similar future incidents.
The misconduct outlined by a report detailing the specifics of IRS agents targeting conservative groups for extra scrutiny was inexcusable, the president said. “Americans are right to be angry about it,” he said. “I’m angry about it. I will not tolerate this behavior in any government agency, but especially in the IRS … given the reach it has into all our lives.”
An IRS official apologized on Friday for targeting Tea Party-affiliated groups but said the incident was limited to a few organizations and a few rogue IRS agents. But as more information emerged, it became clear other conservative groups were targeted and agency administrators knew about the situation last year.
President Obama announced today he had requested and accepted the resignation of the agency’s acting commissioner, Steve Miller, who knew agents were singling out conservative groups as early as May 2012 but never said anything about it.
“The law should be applied in a fair and impartial way,” the president said. “That’s what I expect. That’s what the American people deserve. And that’s what we’re going to do.”
President Obama said he would seek bipartisan support from Congress as it performs its oversight role, “in a way that doesn’t smack of partisan politics.”
Speaking on CNN shortly after the president’s statement, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said he expected the White House to find willing partners on Capitol Hill, where members of Congress have vowed to do bipartisan work on the issue.
“What’s happened wrong today could happen wrong tomorrow to a different group,” Issa said.
Conservative political groups apparently were not the only ones targeted by the IRS. Franklin Graham, who heads up the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse, said both ministries had been singled out last year by the government agency after the Billy Graham ministry placed ads in newspapers supporting a vote last May on a constitutional amendment in North Carolina that recognized marriage as only being between a man and a woman.
“I do not believe the IRS audits of our two organizations last year is a coincidence—or justifiable,” Graham wrote in a letter to President Obama.