There was "not even a smidgen of corruption" at the Internal Revenue Service, President Barack Obama said Sunday regarding the scandal involving the targeting of conservative groups. If that is true, reporters and Republican members of Congress are asking, why is there an ongoing FBI investigation into the scandal? And why is the FBI refusing to provide Congress details of its investigation?
"There's an active Justice Department investigation. Doesn't the President prejudge that investigation when he tells Bill O'Reilly there's not a smidgen of corruption?" ABC's Jonathan Karl asked White House Press Secretary Jay Carney Monday.
Carney answered that the president's statement is backed up by what he has "learned through the independent inspector general and through the testimony that we've seen."
The president's view that there is no corruption at the IRS is also backed up by "20 different news organizations," Carney said.
Since the president believes there was no corruption at the IRS, Karl asked, does that mean the Justice Department should end its investigation into the IRS?
"Obviously, we do not interfere with Justice Department investigations," Carney answered.
To support his view that there is "not even a smidgen of corruption" at the IRS, Obama told O'Reilly that "there have been multiple hearings on it."
The hearings, though, continue, and the FBI has refused to provide testimony to Congress about the investigation.
At a Wednesday House Ways and Means subcommittee hearing, John Koskinen, who was recently appointed IRS Commissioner, told members of Congress that he wanted his organization's investigation into the scandal to be over as soon as possible. The investigation is using up valuable IRS resources that could be used to catch tax-dodgers, he explained.
On Thursday, a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee will also hold a hearing on the matter. Members of Congress will hear from conservative groups who were harassed by the IRS and denied tax-exempt status prior to the 2012 election. The hearing will also ask about the appointment of Barbara Bosserman to lead the IRS investigation into the targeting of conservative groups. Bosserman has donated money to the Democratic National Committee and Obama's re-election campaign.
"On Sunday, the President tried to repeat the debunked claim that the IRS' targeting of conservatives originated in a 'local office,'" said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who chairs the subcommittee holding the hearing. "While the President insists on misleading the American people about this scandal, the Committee will hear this week from those who were targeted by his administration. The Committee will push for answers about why the Justice Department appointed a presidential donor to head their own investigation of the IRS' targeting when Justice Department officials are directed to avoid even the perception of a conflict of interest."
Peter Breen, vice president and senior counsel of the Thomas More Society, said he was "shocked" to hear Obama say there was no corruption in the IRS.
"Thomas More Society has defended six pro-life organizations whose First Amendment rights were trampled upon by the IRS because of the groups' dedication to the sanctity of life," Breen said. "In fact, in May and August of 2013, Thomas More Society produced two memos to the House Committee on Ways and Means, totaling over 500 pages of evidence that the IRS specifically targeted and harassed pro-life and conservative charities, illegally questioning their religious activities and withholding their tax exemptions.
"Frankly, we are shocked that President Obama would state that there was 'not even a smidgen of corruption' involved in the IRS scandal. The Obama administration must stop making excuses to cover up the IRS' illegal activity and instead deal justly with the corruption and scandal that occurred."