For a little more than a month now, we've been reporting on the IRS's flagging of Tea Party and conservative groups for extra scrutiny. Through it all, some basic questions remain: Who ordered the targeting? And why?
We don't have any satisfying answers to those questions yet — and it seems neither do the congressional investigators. But along the way, as new revelations have trickled out, we've noticed some surprising and even puzzling facts about the situation that haven't gotten much attention.
Hundreds of pages of transcribed interviews reveal that IRS employees in Washington were involved at an early stage in the improper targeting of Tea Party groups — but at least so far the trail stops well short of the White House.
Based on interviews with two longtime IRS employees working in the Cincinnati field office, there's no smoking gun, no direct connection to the Obama administration or even any indication that those involved in the flagging of conservative groups had political motives.
The panel now headed by Rep. Darrell Issa, a California Republican, has long been a place to watch partisan tempers fly.
But the assertion by the panel's top Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, that the investigation into the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of conservative groups should be closed appears to have only escalated the bad feelings that already existed.
A self-described conservative Republican who oversees IRS screeners dealing with non-profit groups has told lawmakers that he doesn't think the White House played a role in stonewalling "Tea Party" and "patriot" groups, according to the ranking Democrat on the committee investigating the matter.