The cunning Mr. Cummings: Chapter and verse

In tomorrow’s Wall Street Journal column “The IRS’s best friend in Congress,” my daughter Eliana cites chapter and verse to refute the party line toed by House Oversight Committee Ranking Member Elijah Cummings as he seeks to obstruct the committee’s investigation into the IRS scandal. This column advances our understanding of the disgraceful game that is afoot.

The events underlying the IRS scandal may have been orchestrated by the White House, or they may simply have been elicited by multifarious cues provided by the White House. That remains to be seen. The attempted obstruction of the investigations and the associated talking points (i.e., lies), however, surely are a pure product of the White House. Eliana writes:

The House Oversight Committee’s investigation into the Internal Revenue Service’s discrimination against conservative groups continues—but at least one unenthusiastic member seems to think the committee’s work is done.

Over the objections of Chairman Darrell Issa (R., Calif.), Rep. Elijah Cummings (D., Md.) last week released online the full, 205-page transcript of an interview that committee investigators conducted with an IRS employee in Cincinnati named John Shafer. Mr. Cummings explained that he was compelled to release the Shafer transcript because it explodes Mr. Issa’s “conspiracy theories”—chiefly, that the White House played a role in the targeting of conservative groups, and that it was orchestrated out of IRS headquarters in Washington, D.C. In fact, Mr. Issa has never said the former, and much that is known so far about the IRS scandal suggests that the Washington connection is substantial.

Mr. Cummings’s enthusiasm for defending the IRS may make him a lonely figure among the 22 Republicans and 16 Democrats on the House Oversight Committee, but he is likely to find an ally in his chief counsel on the committee. She is Susanne Sachsman Grooms, who worked for the IRS between 2008 and 2011 as an adviser to the deputy commissioner for services and enforcement and then as a senior counselor to the chief of criminal investigations. At the time, the deputy commissioner for services and enforcement—her boss—was none other than Steven Miller, who held the post of IRS commissioner from November 2012 until his resignation in May after the scandal broke. Mr. Cummings also has a strong tie to the Obama administration: His staff director on the Oversight Committee, David Rapallo, is a former White House lawyer.

The release of the Shafer transcript came after a June 12 interview with Politico in which Mr. Cummings labeled the Oversight Committee’s investigation a “witch hunt”—in other words, something that should end immediately. A few days before that, in a June 9 CNN interview, he said, “The IG made some recommendations, those recommendations are being adopted by the IRS . . . I think we’re in great shape.”

As it happens, the revelation of Mr. Shafer’s testimony isn’t likely to discourage the investigation….

Please check it out and read the whole thing.

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