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US tax chief ousted in scandal

WASHINGTON -- Washington's top tax official was fired on Wednesday as President Barack Obama sought to stem a rising tide of criticism over the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of conservative groups for special scrutiny.

Seeking to regain the initiative amid a series of controversies that have threatened his second-term agenda, Obama said new leadership was needed to restore public confidence in the IRS, whose reputation for political independence has suffered a major blow.

Obama said he had told his Treasury Secretary, Jack Lew, to seek the resignation of Steven Miller, the acting IRS commissioner, and Lew had done so.

"I will do everything in my power to make sure nothing like this happens again," Obama told reporters at the White House.

Obama spoke after meeting senior Treasury officials on how to quell the growing uproar after a government watchdog described how poor management led to an "inappropriate" focus on claims by conservative groups for tax-exempt status.

The Democratic president, who had been accused by Republican critics of reacting too passively to the scandal, called the misconduct "inexcusable."

"I am angry about it," he said.

He promised to work "hand in hand" with Congress to put in place new safeguards but, acknowledging the realities of a divided Washington, urged lawmakers to deal with the delicate issue in a way that does not "smack of politics or partisan agendas."

Obama's announcement also followed stepped-up calls from Republican lawmakers for Miller and other top IRS officials to resign.

Miller said in a message to colleagues that there is a "strong and immediate need" to restore public trust in the nation's tax agency.

"It is with regret that I will be departing from the IRS as my acting assignment ends in early June," Miller wrote. "This has been an incredibly difficult time for the IRS given the events of the past few days.

Earlier on Wednesday, CNN quoted a congressional source as saying Miller had said the IRS had pinpointed two "rogue" employees in the agency's Cincinnati, Ohio, office as being principally responsible for "overly aggressive" reviews of requests for tax-exempt status by groups associated with the conservative Tea Party movement.

The IRS revelations have added to a sense of a White House under siege and a president struggling to gain control of fast-moving events.

Republicans continue to bash the administration's handling of the attack last year on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya. And on Monday, the Justice Department came under fire for seizing phone records of journalists from the Associated Press as part of a criminal probe into intelligence leaks.

The Justice Department has launched a criminal probe of the IRS, and on Wednesday a third congressional committee announced that it would begin its own investigation.

Comments

kevin 1 year, 4 months ago

So when is Obama going to do his job and force AG Holder to resign as well? He seems to never know anything that goes on in his Agency. What a joke! I guess it was time for some Agency head to be the token to get axed so Obama picked the IRS and not his other lousy appointed ones.

2X more scandals in this administration than in all the rest put together!

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kevin 1 year, 4 months ago

If you read Obama's press release today, which talks about all the problems with the IRS, then why did Obama wait for this incident to blow up in his face to ask for the IRS commissioners head a long time ago? Answer: Obama let him do what he wanted to. Obama has never lead anything before becoming President so why would you expect him to know how to control the folks he appointed? When the fires get hot, Obama then does something. Have you noticed how even the Democrats are supporting the ousting on Miiler? I guess when something Liberals get caught doing and there is no wiggle-room to get out of it, they have to agree with the Republicans or else lose their supporters.

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