White House spokesman Jay Carney repeatedly suggested today that Rep. Darrell Issa’s congressional investigations of the IRS scandal are illegitimate.
“We believe there is an important role played by Congress, through legitimate oversight,” Carney told reporters during the June 3 press conference.
“We believe that congressional oversight is important, when it is legitimate,” he said. “This is a matter that should be looked at by Congress, through the process of legitimate congressional oversight.”
The hard-nosed attack is likely intended to weaken public receptiveness to Issa’s determined investigation of the IRS targeting scandal. It is coupled with increasingly vehement criticism from some of Obama’s former aides.
It is also intended to focus criticism from the White House’s progressive allies in the media and advocacy groups.
The scandal is dangerous to the White House – polls show a lopsided majority of the public, including most swing-voters, views the scandal as important and worth investigating.
From 2010 to 2012, IRS officials used their regulatory power to suppress activity by hundreds of local and national political groups formed by Tea Party activists, pro-lifers, Israel-supporters and community organizers.
Issa chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. He was reelected in November, as were all 22 other members of the GOP majority on the committee.
Issa is now using his subpoena power to extract statements and evidence form IRS managers and employees. On Monday, for example, he released a portions of an interview with an IRS official who suggested that the targeting efforts were coordinated by IRS officials in Washington D.C.
So far, Issa has not discovered firm evidence that White House officials knew about, or directed the targeting plan in 2010, 2011 or 2012.
However, the Obama administration’s allies are stepping up their criticisms as Issa’s investigations draw closer to the White House.
On Sunday, Obama’s former top political strategists, David Plouffe, tweeted out a statement describing Issa as “Mr Grand Theft Auto and suspected arsonist/insurance swindler.”
On Monday, Obama’s former press secretary, Robert Gibbs, demanded that Issa apologize for Issa’s Sunday description of Carney as a “paid liar.”
“Darrell Issa should call Jay Carney and apologize this morning,” Gibbs said during an appearance on MSNBC.
“It’s why five people in this town take Darrell Issa seriously and it’s the surest bet the Republicans are very much on the verge of overplaying their hand publicly and the American people will lose interest in their side of this,” said Gibbs, who served as spokesman for Obama in the 2012 race.
The public wants “to see the IRS cleaned up, but they will understand quickly that Darrell Issa is doing nothing more than politicizing this event,” according to Gibbs.
During a Sunday interview on CNN, Issa called Carney a liar for portraying the targeting scandal as the work of a few rogue employees in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Carney is “their paid liar, their spokesperson … He’s still making up things about what happened and calling this a local rogue,” Issa said.
In the last few weeks, Carney has periodically tried to portray Issa’s investigations as illegitimate.
“We support congressional oversight, legitimate congressional oversight in this matter,” he said May 20. “As I said earlier and as others have said, that we believe that legitimate oversight in this matter is something that we will cooperate with, and should,” he added.