Paul Ryan questions Steven Miller on IRS targeting conservatives

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., questions ousted IRS Chief Steve Miller and J. Russell George, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, as they testify during a hearing at the House Ways and Means Committee on the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) practice of targeting applicants for tax-exempt status based on political leanings on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Friday, May 17, 2013.  Credit: AP

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) hammered outgoing IRS interim head Steven Miller on Friday, demanding to know why Miller did not reveal details about the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups in a July hearing despite having known about it since at least last May and despite having been asked specifically about it in Capitol Hill two months later.

“The law … requires you to not only tell the truth, but to tell the whole truth,” an annoyed Ryan said. “You ‘cannot conceal or cover up, by any trick scheme or device, any material fact.’ How was that not misleading this committee? You knew the targeting was taking place. You know the terms ‘Tea Party’ [and] ‘Patriots’ were being used. You just acknowledged a minute ago they were outrageous. And then when you were asked about this after you were briefed about this, that was the answer you gave us? How can we not conclude that you mislead this committee?”

Miller’s July answer included a general response that “we did group these organization together to ensure consistency, to ensure quality.”

“Sir, that was a lot of questions, sir,” Miller responded to Ryan on Friday.

“It’s one,” Ryan shot back. “How can we conclude that you did not mislead this committee?”

“I did not mislead the committee. I stand by my answer then, I stand by my answer now. Harassment discussion that was part of that question implies political motivation. Um, there is a discussion going on. There is no political motivation.”

“Let me ask it again,” Ryan said.

“Can I answer the question, sir?” Miller interrupted.

“I’m going to help you and give you some clarity here,” Ryan responded to chuckles from the gallery.

“… My understanding of that question was the treatment of the cases, because all of the letters.” Miller replied after Ryan read back the question from last year. “I’m hearing that people were complaining about letters. My response was to that.”

That didn’t suffice for Ryan.

“You knew of our concerns of this targeting. You knew of the allegations that had been reported to this committee. We brought you here to talk about it. You received a briefing that this targeting was taking place. But you did not divulge that to this committee when we were asking questions about this.”

“I answered the question truthfully,” an exhausted-looking Miller responded.

Watch the tense exchange below:

That comes on the heels of the NBC News reporting Friday morning that the commissioner knew about the controversial IRS actions “for a year”:

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