WASHINGTON -- In a rebuke to House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) has released the full transcript of a key interview with an IRS employee at the heart of the agency's scandal.
The 200-page transcript sheds additional light on the decision by the IRS to screen out tea party groups applying for tax-exempt status during the months and years leading up to the 2012 elections.
Republican and Democratic committee staffers interviewed IRS official John Shafer on June 6 about the agency's decision to scrutinize a tea party group's application for tax-exempt 501(c)(4) status. Shafer, who identified himself as "a conservative Republican" and said he'd worked for the IRS since 1992, said that he and a fellow screener initially flagged a tea party group and continued to do so with subsequent applications in order to maintain consistency in the process.
Throughout much of the interview, Shafer describes the mundane bureaucratic challenges of dealing with incoming applications for nonprofit status. He said his team flagged the first tea party application because it appeared to be a high-profile case, and he wanted to make sure all high-profile cases received similar attention.
"What I'm talking here is that if we end up with four applications coming into the group that are pretty similar, and we assign them to four different agents, we don't want four different determinations," he said. "It's just not good business. It's not good customer service."
Asked plainly, "do you have any reason to believe that anyone in the White House was involved in the decision to screen Tea Party cases?" Shafer replied, "I have no reason to believe that."
"Do you have any reason to believe that anyone in the White House was involved in the decisions to centralize the review of Tea Party cases?" he was asked. "I have no reason to believe that," he replied.
Asked if he had "ever communicated with [then IRS] Commissioner Shulman about the screening of Tea Party cases?" he replied, "I have not."
Interviewers also asked Shafer if he told his screeners to specifically pull Tea Party cases.
"Again, I was not asking them for those kind of cases," he said. "[I]f I would have directed them to pull our Tea Party cases, little Susie's Tea Party would have been pulled and it wasn't."