In a statement to reporters at the White House President Obama announced that he had told his Treasury Secretary, Jack Lew, to seek the resignation of Steven Miller, the acting IRS commissioner, and Lew had done so. Confirming that the acting IRS commissioner was stepping down and the President told reporters that, “I will do everything in my power to make sure nothing like this happens again.”
He said new leadership was needed to restore public confidence in the IRS, whose reputation for political independence has suffered a major blow.
President Obama spoke after meeting senior Treasury officials on how to quell the growing uproar after a government watchdog described how poor management led to an “inappropriate” focus on claims by conservative groups for tax-exempt status.
The president has said, “I am angry about it,”
President Obama promised to work “hand in hand” with Congress to put in place new safeguards but, acknowledging the realities of a divided Washington, urged lawmakers to deal with the delicate issue in a way that does not “smack of politics or partisan agendas.”
Obama’s announcement also followed stepped-up calls from Republican lawmakers for Miller and other top IRS officials to resign.
Departing IRS acting head Steven Miller said in a message to colleagues that there is a “strong and immediate need” to restore public trust in the nation’s tax agency.
The message said in part, “It is with regret that I will be departing from the IRS as my acting assignment ends in early June,” “This has been an incredibly difficult time for the IRS given the events of the past few days.
Earlier on Wednesday, CNN quoted a congressional source as saying Miller had said the IRS had pinpointed two “rogue” employees in the agency’s Cincinnati, Ohio, office as being principally responsible for “overly aggressive” reviews of requests for tax-exempt status by groups associated with the conservative Tea Party movement.
The IRS revelations have added to a sense of a White House under siege and a president struggling to gain control of fast-moving events.
Republicans continue to bash the administration’s handling of the attack last year on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya. And on Monday, the Justice Department came under fire for seizing phone records of journalists from the Associated Press as part of a criminal probe into intelligence leaks.
The Justice Department has launched a criminal probe of the IRS, and on Wednesday a third congressional committee announced that it would begin its own investigation.
With surmounting problems swamping the current administration the president must feel like the custodian of a governmental house of cards. There will be many who believe that the resignation of Steven Miller is a case of closing the barn door after the stock has gotten out.
What is important about the whole ordeal is President Obama’s outrage at the events, Referring to the IG report, he said, “The misconduct that it uncovered is inexcusable. It’s inexcusable and Americans are right to be angry about it. And I am angry about it.”
The president also said that he would “not tolerate this kind of behavior in any agency,” but particularly not in the IRS. He went on to say that, “As I said earlier, it should not matter what political stripe you’re from, the fact of the matter is the IRS has to operate with absolute integrity.”
The repercussions of this will be felt for some time to come.
By Michael Smith