Then-IRS chief Steven Miller threw his pencil across the room and yelled, "Oh, s—t" when he was told in the spring of 2012 that his agency had been targeting Tea Party groups for heightened security, according to newly released documents.
That anecdote is among the new revelations found in documents uncovered by the FBI investigation into the IRS targeting scandal obtained by the conservative group Judicial Watch. The group obtained them through a court order and released them Thursday.
The 294 pages of investigation documents confirm that top officials at the IRS knew that Tea Party and conservative nonprofit groups were being singled out for added scrutiny two years before Lois Lerner, head of the division dealing with nonprofits, acknowledged it in May 2013, kicking off a years-long controversy.
Miller, then the acting commissioner of the agency, was told a year earlier that the processing office in Cincinnati had been categorizing cases based on the names of the groups and their ideology, which prompted his outburst.
The transcript indicates that the office was targeting applications for nonprofit status that included the term Tea Party because of mix-up. A manager trying to review cases for political activity was brought one that involved a Tea Party group, and as a result, he told his staff to find other cases with similar behavior, an order that was interpreted to look out for the term "Tea Party."
In the spring of 2011, an unidentified IRS senior tax law specialist noted that cases were being pulled based on ideological identification and alerted managers, including official Holly Paz. The documents show that other top officials, including Lerner, were tipped off that the Cincinnati office was using the term "Tea Party" to identify cases to examine.
Those findings accord with the 2013 inspector general report that found that senior IRS officials knew about the scrutiny given to Tea Party groups two years before Lerner's disclosure.
"These new smoking-gun documents show Obama FBI and Justice Department had plenty of evidence suggesting illegal targeting, perjury, and obstruction of justice," Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton said in a statement.
FBI and Justice Department investigations into the scandal resulted in no charges. President Obama and IRS officials have claimed that political animus was not the reason for the extra scrutiny imposed on conservative groups. Nevertheless, the controversy over the IRS' targeting of conservative groups continues to influence affairs in Congress.
Conservatives in the House of Representatives have sought to impeach current IRS commissioner John Koskinen for slowing investigations into the targeting scandal and lying to members of Congress. Republican leadership, to this point, has resisted such an effort.
Republicans have also sought reforms of the IRS and limited budget increases for the agency to try to reshape its priorities.