Pointing out that a contributor to President Barack Obama’s campaign is running the Justice Department’s probe of the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) drew referenced Watergate when questioning FBI Director James Comey.
“The attorney general has appointed to lead this investigation a major Obama donor who has given President Obama and Democrats over $6,000. Do you see any actual or apparent conflict of interest in that?” Cruz asked Wednesday during a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Comey gave the same answer he gave to most of Cruz’s questions.
“I don’t think that’s something I can comment on,” Comey said.
Cruz followed, “Do you think it would have been appropriate to trust John Mitchell to investigate Richard Nixon?”
Comey response: “I think that’s impossible for me to answer at this point.”
Comey did not answer questions about how many people the FBI interviewed as part of the FBI probe, but responded to a question about Obama saying there is “not a smidgen of corruption” in the IRS matter.
“One thing I can assure you is that the FBI does not care about anybody’s characterizations of a matter,” Comey said. “We care only about the facts and we’re passionate about the facts.”
Attorney General Eric Holder named Barbara Bosserman, a Justice Department trial attorney, is leading the DOJ/FBI investigation of the IRS. She donated at least $6,750 to President Barack Obama’s campaigns and the Democratic National Committee. Bosserman was even an Obama donor in the early stages of the president’s 2008 primary campaign Hillary Clinton
“It has been 372 days, just over a year since President Obama and Attorney General Holder both publicly stated that they were outraged at the IRS’s improper targeting of conservative groups and individuals,” Cruz said. “Indeed President Obama said at the time he was angry and the American people have a right to be angry. The stonewalling that has occurred over more than a year gives the American people a right to be even more angry.”
In May of last year, an inspector general’s report found the IRS had been improperly targeting the tax exempt applications of conservative groups, particularly with the words “tea party” in their name that would put them on the BOLO (be on the lookout) list. Groups were asked about what books they read and the content of their prayers.
Lois Lerner, former head of the IRS exempt organizations unit, was found in contempt of Congress for refusing to cooperation with congressional investigators.
When Comey continued not answering questions, Cruz became frustrated.
“So the American people have no right to know what’s happening other than nothing has happened?” Cruz said.
At that point Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy jumped in.
“Let’s be fair. That’s not what he answered,” Leahy said. “He answered very appropriately in the same way that appropriately similar answers were given during Republican administrations and we accept them.”
Cruz pointed out that several Senate Democrats pushed the IRS in the targeting. Documents released last week showed the IRS in close coordination with Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) about targeting conservative groups.
“Mr. Chairman, you’re welcome to accept them, and I note that this IRS targeting correspondents has came in significant regard at the written behest of Democratic members of this body,” Cruz said. “So, I understand if there is not an interest among some in this body of learning what happened.”