Barack Obama accused of cover-up over tax-targeting scandal

Republicans round on administration as ousted IRS chief appears before Congress

Freshly forced from his job by an increasingly defensive President Barack Obama, the man at the heart of a swirling tax-scandal denied to members of Congress yesterday that the Internal Revenue Service’s extra scrutiny of conservative political groups in the run-up to the 2012 election was politically motivated.

But Steven Miller, who was acting chief of the IRS until his ousting early last week, conceded that under his watch “intolerable” errors had been made. In the first hearing on the affair by the House Ways and Means Committee, Mr Miller denied that the special screening of groups identified by monikers like “Tea Party” or “Patriot” had been motivated by partisanship or that he had misled Congress about what had been going on.

There has been uproar in Washington since the IRS publicly acknowledged a week ago that staff in an office in Cincinnati, Ohio, had selected 298 conservative groups for special scrutiny following requests for tax-exempt status. Days later the Treasury Department’s Inspector General confirmed that “inappropriate criteria” had been used in that process, prompting Mr Obama to seek Mr Miller’s resignation.

Any notion that the IRS meant to nobble groups unfriendly to the White House would naturally rise to the level of serious political scandal. “This appears to be just the latest example of a culture of cover-ups and political intimidation in this administration,” Dave Camp, the Committee’s Republican chair, asserted. “It seems like the truth is hidden from the American people just long enough to make it through an election.”

Subjected to aggressive questioning by members, Mr Miller nonetheless repeatedly countered that what happened was a case of IRS staff trying to streamline work as they encountered a deluge of political groups, mostly from the right, seeking tax-exempt status. “I think that what happened here was that foolish mistakes were made by people who were trying to be more efficient,” he said.

Asked repeatedly by Republican lawmakers to identify those who had made the mistakes, Mr Miller demurred. “I don’t have names for you,” he said, frustrating his questioners.

The claim of cover-up is also at the core of Republican-led hearings into the handling of the raid on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, last September, in which the US ambassador Christopher Stevens was killed. Last week Mr Obama released a trove of emails between top officials in the days that followed it. In the meantime, questions are being asked about the seizure of phone records from the Associated Press, connected to an inquiry into leaked intelligence.

While individually each of these issues may end up only grazing Mr Obama, they are a gift to Republicans seeking to re-galvanise their grassroots troops.

“The scandals are interlocking and overlapping in ways that drain his authority,” George Will, the veteran conservative columnist averred in the Washington Post. “Everything he advocates requires Americans to lavish on government something that his administration undermines – trust.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
FIFA President Sepp Blatter reacts during a news conference in Zurich June 1, 2011
news
News
people
Life and Style
food + drink
News
peopleKatie Hopkins criticises River Island's 'seize the day' bags for trying to normalise epilepsy
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Nicole Kidman plays Grace Kelly in the film, which was criticised by Monaco’s royal family
film'I survived it, but I’ll never be the same,' says Arash Amel
Life and Style
Retailers should make good any consumer goods problems that occur within two years
tech(and what to do if you receive it)
Life and Style
healthIf one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
Life and Style
tech
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K YR1: SThree: At SThree, we like to be dif...

Guru Careers: Software Developer / Web Developer

£30 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Software / Web Developer (PHP / MYSQL) i...

Guru Careers: Account Executive

£18 - 20k + Benefits: Guru Careers: An Account Executive is needed to join one...

Guru Careers: Software Developer / Software Engineer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Software Developer / Software Engineer i...

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada
Birthplace of Arab Spring in turmoil as angry Tunisians stage massive sit-in over lack of development

They shall not be moved: jobless protesters bring Tunisia to a halt

A former North African boom town is wasting away while its unemployed citizens stick steadfastly to their sit-in
David Hasselhoff's new show 'Hoff the Record': What's it like working with a superstar?

Hanging with the Hoff

Working with David Hasselhoff on his new TV series was an education for Ella Smith