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Conflict of interest? Justice official defending IRS worked at IRS, was involved in targeting scandal

FILE - In this Sept. 20, 2012, file photo, House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., on Capitol Hill in Washington. A federal judge has ordered the Justice Department to provide Congress with a list of documents that are at the center of a long-running battle over a failed law enforcement program called Operation Fast and Furious. In a court proceeding Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson set an Oct. 1 deadline for producing the list to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File) AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) on Monday called on Attorney General Eric Holder to set up a special counsel for the IRS targeting scandal, in light of new evidence that one Justice Department official defending the IRS was himself part of the targeting scandal when he was an IRS employee.

According to Issa, Andrew Strelka worked at the IRS Exempt Organizations Division from 2008 to 2010. That division is the group that slow walked and delayed applications from conservative entities seeking tax-exempt organizations.

House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., says the Justice Department can't objectively defend the IRS in the targeting scandal case, and should appoint a special counsel to do so. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Issa said his committee has found an email from IRS manager Ronald Shoemaker that asked Strelka and others to be "on the lookout for a tea party case."

Shoemaker's email itself seems to be a sign that the IRS was specifically on the lookout for Tea Party cases, even though the IRS has said that was not the case.

"If you have received or do receive a case in the future involving an exemption for an organization having to do with tea party let me know," Shoemaker wrote.

Issa said he's also worried that Nicole Siegel, now with the Justice Department's Office of Legislative Affairs, had a close relationship with Lerner and worked for Democratic candidates.

"This new information about additional conflicts of interest within the Justice Department shows that almost every facet of the Department with an interest in the IRS targeting investigation is compromised," Issa wrote in a letter to Holder, along with Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).

"With these startling revelations, we reiterate the bipartisan calls for the appointment of an independent special counsel," they added. "In addition, to better examine the actions and experiences of Andrew Strelka and Nicole Siegel at the IRS and the Justice Department, and for other relevant matters, we request that you make Mr. Strelka and Ms. Siegel available for transcribed interviews with Committee staff."

Issa asked that the department allow the two officials to be interviewed by committee staff no later than September 8.

Republicans have continued to press Holder for an independent investigator into the IRS targeting scandal, but to no avail. The GOP has also criticized President Barack Obama himself for saying there is not a "smidgen" of corruption at the IRS, which Republicans say is a signal to Holder not to pursue the matter aggressively.

Read Issa's letter here:

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