President Obama insisted Thursday that he knew nothing about the internal investigation into the IRS’ practice of singling out conservative groups for special scrutiny before it was made public, a day after he sought to tamp down the controversy by announcing the resignation of the IRS chief.
“I certainly did not know anything about the (inspector general) report” beforehand, Obama said Thursday, during a press conference alongside the Turkish prime minister.
He reiterated that he found the agency’s actions “unacceptable” and sought to fix the problem “the minute” he found out about it.
Lawmakers were inquiring about the alleged targeting of Tea Party groups by the IRS more than a year ago, but the White House claims they were not in the loop on the practice. Obama, seeking to swiftly address the controversy, announced Wednesday that acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller would resign — though Miller was apparently set to step down anyway.
An official close to Miller told Fox News, shortly after Obama’s brief announcement, that the IRS chief was “set to resign the position of acting commission as of early June.” He was planning to leave the IRS entirely a “couple of months later, regardless of the current controversy,” the source said.
These details were not mentioned by the president as he announced Wednesday evening Miller was resigning. Obama spoke following a meeting with Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew and other top department officials in which they reviewed a highly critical inspector general’s report on the practice. The report concluded poor management allowed agents to improperly target Tea Party and other groups for more than 18 months, starting in 2010.
Obama said Lew asked for the resignation and Miller agreed, after being on the job since November 2012.
“Americans have a right to be angry about it, and I’m angry about it,” Obama said from the White House. The president is expected to name a new acting commissioner later this week.
Republicans, who along with Democrats have slammed the IRS for the practice, welcomed the resignation Wednesday but made clear they would continue to investigate and press for accountability.