Why Won’t Chairman Issa Release The Full Transcripts Of Interviews With IRS Employees?

Without full transcripts, the excerpts released by the House Oversight Committee are worthless.

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Last week, House Government Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa released partial transcripts of depositions that committee staffers had taken of lower-level employees at the IRS’s Cincinnati office who were involved in the processing of 501(c)(4) applications.  Matt Bernius took a look at those excerpts and found them to be far less revealing than the press surrounding them was claiming and, in a comment to Matt’s post, I noted that it struck me as impossible to truly evaluate the exercepts without being able to see the full transcripts. So far at least, though, Chairman Issa is not willing to release the complete transcripts:

WASHINGTON — One week after he released partial transcripts of interviews with IRS officials involved in the scandal surrounding the targeting of conservative groups, the chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said releasing the full transcripts would be “reckless” and “irresponsible.”

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) pushed back Tuesday against calls to put out more information on the committee’s investigation into the controversy, sparked after a Treasury Department Inspector General report revealed the IRS had singled out tea party groups applying for nonprofit status for extra scrutiny. Responding specifically to criticism from Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking Democratic member of the committee, Issa said that releasing full interviews conducted with IRS employees would hurt the ongoing investigation.

“Your decision to publicly announce that the investigation should wrap up was irresponsible, but not surprising,” said Issa, in a letter to Cummings. “However, your push to release entire transcripts from witness interviews while the investigation remains active was reckless and threatened to undermine the integrity of the Committee’s investigation.”

The position is a tenuous one for Issa, who during an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union” just over a week ago promised that the full transcripts would be released. On that same program, Issa revealed several partial transcripts that suggested the directive to screen tea party groups came from officials in Washington.

Since then, The Huffington Post has sent four emails asking Issa’s office when the full transcripts would be made public. Not one was returned. When asked why Issa’s release of a partial transcript was fine but he opposed releasing the transcripts in full, a spokesman for the congressman referred HuffPost to another statement.

“Limited releases of testimony may also serve to empower other witnesses to become whistleblowers and serve to vindicate individuals who have been subjected to criticism or retaliation at the hands of their managers,” said Issa, in that statement. “On the other hand, if a full transcript were released, it would serve as a roadmap of the Committee’s investigation.”

It could take weeks, if not months, to see the full transcripts should the committee wait to release them until the investigation is completed. According to a Democratic aide on the committee, investigators have interviewed five IRS employees so far and have 18 more to go. In addition, investigators are hoping to look through hundred of thousands of documents that could shed light on the tax agency’s controversial screening practices.

In yet another reflection of how partisan the atmosphere on the committee has become, Ranking Member Elijah Cummings has released the Democratic members own excerpts from those interviews, which they claim shows that the decisions that led to the Cincinnati’s targeting of Tea Party and other conservative groups started with an employee in the Cincinnati office rather than, as Issa and others have claimed, with directives from superiors in Washington. These excerpts, of course, suffer from the same weakness that Issa’s excerpts do because they are selective portions of selected interviews rather than the full transcripts. Without those full transcripts, it’s impossible to put all of the statements by these witnesses in  their proper context rather than drawing the conclusions that selective editing is supposed to be leading us to in either of the two cases.

As for Issa’s decision not to release the full transcripts, two points can be raise. First of all, if it’s true that releasing full transcripts would undermine the investigation by providing a “roadmap” for where the Committee is heading, then can’t that also be said about the selective edits that we’ve already been provided with? Second, it’s fairly obvious that the only reason either side is releasing any excerpts at all is because they believe that the material released supports their case. That’s not part of a proper investigation, it’s pure politics, not that I’m shocked by that of course. In any case, though, I would suggest that nobody jump to any conclusions based on selective editing of deposition transcripts until the full transcripts have been made available. Otherwise, you’re just allowing yourself to be played.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Taxes, Tea Party, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. mantis says:

    These excerpts, of course, suffer from the same weakness that Issa’s excerpts do because they are selective portions of selected interviews rather than the full transcripts.

    Yes, but Cummings pledged to release the full transcripts this week if Issa refuses to do so.

  2. EddieInCA says:

    Why Won’t Chairman Issa Release The Full Transcripts Of Interviews With IRS Employees?

    “I’ll take ‘obvious answer’ for $100, Alex.”

    What is…. Because doing so would further expose him as a lying, partisian douchebag not interested in anything but tearing down Obama?

  3. steve s says:

    “Why Won’t Chairman Issa Release The Full Transcripts Of Interviews With IRS Employees?”

    Because he is a lying, America-hating scumbag?

    In other words, a typical modern GOPer.

    This has been brought to you by SAtSQ.

  4. stonetools says:

    I think we all know why Isssa wants to release only excerpts of these transcripts. It’s the reason he’s playing the same game with the Benghazi investigations.
    It’s because full disclosure of the transcripts would reveal that these “scandals” don’t amount to much. If they helped his case, Issa would have already released those full transcripts, with flags flying and trumpets blaring.

    @mantis:

    I hope Cummings follows through on that.

  5. legion says:

    Darryl Issa is a mobbed-up thug who’s about to find out that you can’t really intimidate Presidents and members of Congress with the same cheap threats that got you elected to office.

  6. michael reynolds says:

    @EddieInCA:

    First to ring in with the correct answer.

  7. michael reynolds says:

    It’s interesting that even this “scandal,” which I thought the GOP’s best shot at scandal-mongering, appears to be deflating.

    So the AP and Rosen scandals are dead in the water. The IRS scandal is just about over. The American people don’t give a damn about PRISM and neither does half the GOP.

    Can we get back to actual governing now?

  8. Gustopher says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Can we get back to actual governing now?

    No. Not a chance.

    That question was as easy as Mr.Mataconis’s question. Here’s a slightly harder one: With the type of legislation that happens when the Republicans are attempting to govern, is it better for them to attempt to govern, or pursue meaningless “scandals”?

  9. rudderpedals says:

    Why Won’t Chairman Issa Release The Full Transcripts Of Interviews With IRS Employees?

    That’s asking the magician to stop the performance and explain the tricks. You’re interrupting the show.

  10. anjin-san says:

    Can we get back to actual governing now?

    First we have to listen to Fox telling us how Obama wants to kill a little girl in PA that needed a lung transplant…

  11. Caj says:

    Mr Investigation Issa won’t release them because all this ballyhoo made of the IRS has been a time wasting exercise! Republicans want everyone else to be open and transparent but they can pick and choose what they bring forth. But, that’s Republican’s for you. Hypocrites!

  12. mt noise says:

    @michael reynolds:

    “Can we get back to actual governing now? ”

    Why? All your side wants is for the Republicans to drop their pants and grab their ankles.

  13. anjin-san says:

    the Republicans to drop their pants and grab their ankles.

    They do it for the 1% every day of the week, they have had lots of practice…

  14. Argon says:

    Tying Issa to ‘Grand Theft Auto’ was a strategically great play by the White House. His credibility is shot.

  15. stonetools says:

    @mt noise:

    “Can we get back to actual governing now? ”

    Why? All your side wants is for the Republicans to drop their pants and grab their ankles.

    This comment is why we won’t get back to actual governing till the Democrats win back control of the House and get back a filibuster proof majority in the Senate. At this point, appeals to the Republicans to compromise and to cooperate in government will fail because Republican voters aren’t interested in compromise and cooperation. One day (soon hopefully) the MSM will see this.

  16. legion says:

    @mt noise:
    What @stonetools said. Your comment is what passes for “intellectualism” in the GOP today, and it’s exactly why the will be no governing until such childishness gets people sent back to the children’s table where they belong.

  17. legion says:

    @Argon: Oh, his credibility was shot long before that…

  18. ElizaJane says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Why do you want them to get back to governing? It would just mean the umpteenth vote to repeal the ACA and a slew of anti-abortion bills. This is not a party capable of “governing” as the term is usually understood.

  19. mt noise says:

    @stonetools:

    Why is that Republicans always have to compromise on their principles? I never see the Democrats do it on the big items.

    And your attitude, along with legion is why Republicans can’t work with Democrats. The sheer vile that exists in that kind of tone makes any cooperate unlikely. Why should they cooperate when its going to be spit back in their faces?

  20. anjin-san says:

    And your attitude, along with legion is why Republicans can’t work with Democrats.

    No doubt you take Republicans to task on a daily basis for things like birtherism, Obama is not a real American, Kenyan socialist Muslim, etc, etc…

  21. Moosebreath says:

    @mt noise:

    “Why is that Republicans always have to compromise on their principles? I never see the Democrats do it on the big items.”

    Then you haven’t been looking. Remember the Republican Presidential debates, when the candidates were asked if they would accept a budget deal with 90% spending cuts and 10% tax increases, and not one candidate would accept it, while Obama was offering equal amount of each? Remember the Democrats refusing to push for single payer health plans in Obama’s health care bill? Remember the 2009 stimulus including 1/3 tax cuts (and a far lower total amount than Democrats pushed for)?

  22. Sam Malone says:

    Grifter gotta grift.
    Issa is a scumbag looking under every rock for dirt, even if he has to it there himself.
    I’ve typed this before…if he was held to the same standard he wants to hold Obama…Issa would be a convicted felon.

  23. Tony W says:

    “Why is that Republicans always have to compromise on their principles? I never see the Democrats do it on the big items.”

    It’s also largely because Republicans are wrong so often. They are wrong about the economy and the means to fix it. They are wrong about their support of the 1% over the 99%. They are wrong about equality for gays and other minorities. They are wrong about intellectualism and science. They are wrong about vaginal probes and other civil liberties intrusions. They are wrong about pre-emptive war. They are sure as hell wrong about these Obama “scandals” amounting to anything.

    If those were my principles, I would expect to have to compromise too.

  24. anjin-san says:

    “Why is that Republicans always have to compromise on their principles?

    Well, what are the core Republican principles?

    1. The rich are not rich enough, the poor are not poor enough.
    2. Women should not control their own bodies.
    3. Talk constantly about fiscal responsibility. Practice the exact opposite.
    4. You can’t have too many wars.
    5. Second class citizenship is a good thing for America.

    Damn. Can’t imagine why anyone would have a problem with any of this.

  25. al-Ameda says:

    At his core, Darrell Issa is a hyper-partisan political hack.

    He made his personal fortune (hundreds of millions of dollars) in the auto alarm/security business, and he used a part of that to bankroll the 2003 effort to recall Governor Gray Davis here in California. That he now has completely politicized the Benghazi and IRS investigations comes as no surprise to any one who has seen this guy in action for well over a decade.

    It would come as no surprise to me if he forces the House to take up impeachment of the president – he knows the house would impeach, even though the Senate (as currently constituted) would not convict.

  26. Sj says:

    I was watching Fox tonight….O’Reilly just for grins. They are still saying that Obama is evil and the IRS scandal will expose him targeting his political opponents. This is why he won’t release them, Faux News needs more mileage and even if he does, they won’t tell the truth about them. They want to continue to erode everyone’s confidence in the Administration. They make me puke in my mouth a little everytime I watch their lying propaganda!!!!!!! There is a definite media smear campaign going on in order to raise funds. I saw somewhere in an article (wish I had saved it) just prior to all this that Koch Brothers, and Heritage Foundation was paying ABC to do a gigantic media smear campaign, along with other conservative groups which included contributions to other stations and newspapers. This was designed to get Obama impeached and smear Hillary Clinton. They are using McCarthyism, and it is a shame. This strategy is difficult to disprove, Because it just throws stuff out there and leaves people paranoid with no proof.