President Obama late Tuesday called the targeting of conservative groups by the IRS “intolerable and inexcusable,” saying those who unfairly scrutinized the tax-exempt status of Republican-leaning organizations would be held “accountable.”
The remarks represented the president’s strongest rebuke of the Internal Revenue Service since news broke last Friday that the agency had targeted conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status. An inspector general’s report released Tuesday found that IRS employees had used “inappropriate criteria” in focusing on conservatives.
Republicans had pressured Obama to speak more forcefully on the issue, but both the president and his surrogates declined to do so until the report was made public.
Here is Obama’s full statement:
“I have now had the opportunity to review the Treasury Department watchdog’s report on its investigation of IRS personnel who improperly targeted conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status. And the report’s findings are intolerable and inexcusable. The federal government must conduct itself in a way that’s worthy of the public’s trust, and that’s especially true for the IRS. The IRS must apply the law in a fair and impartial way, and its employees must act with utmost integrity. This report shows that some of its employees failed that test.
I’ve directed Secretary [Jack] Lew to hold those responsible for these failures accountable, and to make sure that each of the Inspector General’s recommendations are implemented quickly, so that such conduct never happens again. But regardless of how this conduct was allowed to take place, the bottom line is, it was wrong. Public service is a solemn privilege. I expect everyone who serves in the federal government to hold themselves to the highest ethical and moral standards. So do the American people. And as President, I intend to make sure our public servants live up to those standards every day.”
And Lew said in a statement that he was “deeply troubled” by the watchdog’s report.
“While the Inspector General found no evidence that any individual or organization outside the IRS influenced the decision to use these criteria, these actions were inappropriate and did not reflect the high standards which I expect and the public deserves,” the treasury secretary said. “Like the American people, I have zero tolerance for any action that could undermine public confidence in the impartial and non-partisan administration of the tax code.”