WASHINGTON (AP) — For months, congressional Republicans have been asking about a criminal investigation into the Internal Revenue Service targeting tea party and other conservative groups when they applied for tax-exempt status.
The Justice Department's uniform response: Can't talk, it's an ongoing investigation.
But over the weekend, President Barack Obama wasn't so reticent.
In an interview with Bill O'Reilly during Fox's Super Bowl pregame show, the president said there's "not even a smidgen" of corruption contributing to the IRS targeting.
On Tuesday at a House Judiciary Committee hearing, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, asked how the president could be so sure about that. Deputy Attorney General James Cole told the congressman to check with the White House.
On Monday, the White House had said public testimony and the Justice Department's inspector general completely back up what the president said.
"Doesn't the president prejudge that investigation when he tells Bill O'Reilly there's not a smidgen of corruption?" a reporter asked spokesman Jay Carney.
"Every look at this, every investigation into this, and everything we've learned about this is that this is not something that in any way reached outside of the IRS," said Carney.
Meanwhile, Republicans are pressing the department to send a Justice Department lawyer in the IRS probe, Barbara Bosserman, to come testify before the committee. The Justice Department has declined, saying the probe is ongoing. Jordan and Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., allege that the investigation is compromised because Bosserman contributed $6,750 to Obama's campaign in 2012 and to the Democratic National Committee.