First full interview transcript released in IRS investigation

(FOX19) - Representative Elijah Cummings (D)-Maryland has released the full transcript of a more than five hour interview with Cincinnati IRS Screening Group Manager John Shafer.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Ranking Member Elijah Cummings laid out his reasoning for the release in a letter sent to the committee's chairman Tuesday, "… I believe releasing this transcript serves the best interest of Congress and the American people by ensuring that there is an accurate and fair picture of the management challenges facing the IRS and that recommendations for legislative reform are appropriately crafted to address the specific problems identified as a result of our oversight efforts".

This is the first full transcript to be released to the public of at least five interviews that have been completed.

"Ranking Member Cummings' decision to release this transcript will severely undermine the Oversight Committee's ability to gain the full truth of what has transpired at the IRS," argued Congressman Mike Turner (R)-OH. "Since he called for an end to this investigation, we have learned that IRS officials in Washington had been more involved in the targeting of TEA Party and conservative groups than we initially were lead to believe. This maneuver will do nothing more than obstruct the Committee's investigation. It's clear that Ranking Member Cummings is concerned only with ending a highly embarrassing and troubling investigation before we learn the full truth of who was responsible and why."

At least two other interview transcripts have not been made available in any length by committee representatives from either party.

During FOX19's visit to Washington D.C. legislators pointed to the ongoing investigation as justification for not releasing the full transcripts. 

"There may be a time when it's appropriate to do that, but I do think it's important that you not let everyone understand the line of questioning you're going through and it's been the practice of the committee not to release that," Representative Jim Jordan (R)-Ohio told FOX19.

"The thing that you have to understand is that even a high school principal will tell you that when you're doing an investigation the first thing you do is separate the parties and you get their stories," Michael Turner (R)-Ohio said. "Because from separating he parties you get the truth."

The manager's interview was conducted by the Oversight Committee and the Ways and Means Committee on June 6th.  The transcripts include name redactions to protect individual privacy.

Cummings maintains the "interview transcript provides a detailed first-hand account of how these practices first originated, and it debunks conspiracy theories about how the IRS first started reviewing these cases".

Cummings says the manager identified himself as a "conservative Republican" and denied White House direction or political motivation.

"To be clear, I am not suggesting that IRS employees in Washington, D.C. played no role in these activities," Cummings stated in a letter to committee chairman Darrell Issa. "For example, the Inspector General has already reported that Lois Lerner, the Director of Exempt Organizations at the IRS, became aware of the use of inappropriate criteria in 2011."

Cummings goes on to question why the Chairman has not released all transcripts referencing FOX19's Washington D.C. news coverage that contains an interview with Senator Rob Portman who told FOX19, "I don't know what their reasons are, but I think all of us should be able to get access to those transcripts".

Cummings states he wrote Chairman Issa on June 13 'seeking clarification to ensure that we proceed in a responsible and considered manner':

"In my June 13 letter, I also provided you with a copy of the transcript of the Committee's interview with the Screening Group Manager, with names redacted to protect individual privacy.  In order to provide the public with the most comprehensive information possible without jeopardizing the Committee's investigation, I asked you to review this transcript and identify any specific text you believe should be withheld from the American people, as well as the specific reason you believe it should be concealed.  I requested that you provide any additional proposed redactions by June 17, 2013.  You did not identify any specific text you believe should be withheld for any reason, and you did not identify any text that would compromise the Committee's investigation if released."

In the letter, Cummings asks to meet with Issa in-person stating he continues "to believe that the Committee is capable of conducting a truly bipartisan investigation of this issue that serves the best interests of the American people".

In our commitment to balanced news FOX19 reached out to the Chairman's office for comment, but has thus for not received a response.

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