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Weeks Later, IRS Investigation Hasn't Slowed Down

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block.

An update now on the congressional investigation into the IRS' flagging of conservative groups for extra scrutiny. For the first time since the scandal broke, there are no public hearings scheduled this week. The action is all behind closed doors as NPR's Tamara Keith tells us from Capitol Hill.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Staff from two key committees in the House are conducting closed-door interviews with IRS agents and managers who were involved in processing applications for tax-exempt status. They're trying to figure out why Tea Party and patriot groups were improperly singled out. Both Democratic and Republican staffers are asking the questions, but the release of details has been anything but bipartisan.

Two Sundays ago, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Darrell Issa, a California Republican, released excerpts from two transcribed interviews. And here's what he told CNN they proved.

REPRESENTATIVE DARRELL ISSA: The administration is still trying to say there's a few rogue agents in Cincinnati when, in fact, the indication is they were directly being ordered from Washington.

KEITH: The transcripts Issa released are incomplete, so it's nearly impossible to say what, if anything, they prove. One interviewed employee says Washington officials are throwing the Cincinnati office under the bus.

Not to be outdone on the incomplete transcript front, the ranking member of the Oversight Committee, Maryland Democrat Elijah Cummings, this past weekend went on CNN's "State of the Union." Cummings quoted an interview with a manager in Cincinnati, a self-described conservative Republican who said he alerted Washington, not the other way around.

REPRESENTATIVE ELIJAH CUMMINGS: Based upon everything I've seen, the case is solved. And if it were me, I would wrap this case up and move on.

KEITH: So what is it? There's no way to know without the full transcripts, which Issa told CNN he would release.

ISSA: The whole transcript will be put out. We understand these are in real time.

KEITH: But that was 10 days ago. According to a spokesman, the committee has now completed five interviews, and it's not clear how many more are yet to be done. He went on to say that release would be based on progress of the investigation and not a pre-set timeline. Cummings, though, appears to have given Issa an end-of-the-week deadline, again on CNN.

CUMMINGS: Now, if he does not release them, I will, period.

KEITH: In a statement today, clarifying his position, Cummings says he believes the committee should work in a bipartisan way to release all the interview transcripts. Tamara Keith, NPR News, the Capitol. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith
Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. In that time, she has chronicled the final years of the Obama administration, covered Hillary Clinton's failed bid for president from start to finish and thrown herself into documenting the Trump administration, from policy made by tweet to the president's COVID diagnosis and the insurrection. In the final year of the Trump administration and the first year of the Biden administration, she focused her reporting on the White House response to the COVID-19 pandemic, breaking news about global vaccine sharing and plans for distribution of vaccines to children under 12.