Obama Administration Under Heavy Fire, Holder orders FBI, Justice Probe of IRS

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Pastor Dewey Moede comment: The Obama administration investigating the Obama Administration.

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Federal authorities have launched a criminal investigation into allegations that Internal Revenue Service officials targeted conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status for extra scrutiny, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said Tuesday.In what is the most serious escalation yet of the revelations surrounding the agency, Holder said the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation would examine whether any laws were violated at the IRS, which has acknowledged that it selected groups with the words “tea party” and “patriot” in their names for special audits.

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A report due this week says the IRS targeted groups with names containing “tea party” and “patriot.”

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A report due this week says the IRS targeted groups with names containing “tea party” and “patriot.”

“The FBI is coordinating with the Justice Department to see if any laws were broken in connection with those matters,” Holder said in announcing the investigation. “We are examining the facts to see if there were criminal violations.”The criminal probe ensures that the IRS will be the subject of intense attention for the foreseeable future. The agency’s disclosure of its actions on Friday created a political firestorm and confirmed suspicions about the agency long held by conservatives and Republican lawmakers.

An IRS spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment Tuesday afternoon. IRS officials have said that they have stopped the practice and instituted new policies to prevent it from happening again.

Holder said he ordered the criminal inquiry because the actions may have violated the federal tax and criminal codes. The attorney general spoke during a news conference at the Justice Department, where he also faced questions about his agency’s secret reviews of Associated Press telephone records as part of a leak investigation.

The criminal probe is only one of several investigations now facing the IRS. A bipartisan group of lawmakers have excoriated the agency over the revelations, and committees in both chambers are looking into the practice. The Senate Finance Committee and the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations announced their own investigations Monday.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee have already been looking into reports of IRS attempts to single out conservative organizations. IRS officials are expected to testify before the Ways and Means Committee on Friday.

A report is expected this week from the Treasury inspector general for tax administration, who has been auditing the IRS reviews of political advocacy groups for tax-exempt status. Details from the report that have already surfaced indicate that the IRS not only used the words “patriot” and “tea party” to choose groups for scrutiny but also targeted nonprofit groups that criticized the government and sought to educate Americans about the Constitution.

The White House said Tuesday that it was waiting for the inspector general’s report before making additional comment on the case. Obama has said that if the allegations were true, the actions would be outrageous.

At his daily briefing Tuesday, press secretary Jay Carney said that the White House has not “independently collected information about what transpired.”

“We have to wait for the action of an independent investigator… before we can jump to conclusions about what happened,” Carney said, “whether there was a deliberate targeting of groups, inappropriately, and if that’s the case, what action should be taken.”

On Friday, Lois G. Lerner, the IRS official who oversees tax-exempt groups and who disclosed the targeting, said the “absolutely inappropriate” actions were taken by “front-line people” who were not driven by partisan motives. Lerner said the officials in the tax-exempt unit’s home in Cincinnati were undertaking a misguided effort to deal with a flood of applications from organizations seeking ­tax-exempt status between 2010 and 2012.

But documents obtained by The Washington Post showed that IRS officials in Washington and at least two other offices were involved with investigating conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status and that the effort reached well beyond the branch in Cincinnati.

Officials from the IRS and the inspector general’s office have also told congressional aides that senior officials, including former IRS commissioner Douglas Shulman and current acting commissioner Steve Miller, were briefed on the actions after the targeting had occurred. Republican lawmakers say Shulman and Miller did not inform Congress about what they learned despite numerous inquiries.

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Rachel Weiner contributed to this story.