Of 3 controversies, White House sees IRS matter as most lasting

2013-05-17T00:00:00Z Of 3 controversies, White House sees IRS matter as most lastingThe Associated Press The Associated Press
May 17, 2013 12:00 am  • 

WASHINGTON - President Obama, seeking to regain his footing amid controversies hammering the White House, named a temporary chief for the scandal-marred Internal Revenue Service on Thursday and pressed Congress to approve new security money to prevent another Benghazi-style terrorist attack.

The efforts did little to satisfy Republicans, who see the controversies as an opportunity to derail Obama's second-term agenda.

House Speaker John Boehner suggested the White House had violated the public's trust, and he promised to "stop at nothing" to hold the administration accountable.

"Nothing dissolves the bonds between the people and their government like the arrogance of power here in Washington," Boehner said.

The targeting of conservative political groups by the IRS and new questions about the deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, last year - along with the Justice Department's seizure of journalists' phone records - have consumed the White House for nearly a week.

Of the three controversies, the president's advisers see the IRS matter as the most likely to linger. At least three congressional committees are planning investigations into the agency.

Obama, who was criticized by both opponents and allies for his measured initial response to the IRS targeting, vowed to ensure the agency acts "scrupulously and without even a hint of bias."

"I think we're going to be able to fix it," he declared during a joint news conference with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Soon afterward, Obama appointed senior budget official Danny Werfel to temporarily run the IRS, one day after Acting Commissioner Steven Miller's forced resignation. The White House is expected to nominate a permanent commissioner later this year.

However, the president knocked down the prospect of appointing a special prosecutor to investigate the IRS, saying the congressional investigations and a separate Justice Department probe should be enough to nail down who was responsible for improperly targeting tea-party groups when they applied for tax-exempt status.

The news conference marked Obama's first comments on the government's widely criticized seizure of telephone records of reporters and editors of The Associated Press in an investigation of news leaks.

The president spoke of the importance of striking a balance between "secrecy and the right to know" but said he would make no apologies for trying to protect classified information.

"I've still got 60,000-plus troops in Afghanistan, and I've still got a whole bunch of intelligence officers around the world who are in risky situations," he said. "Part of my job is to make sure that we're protecting what they do, while still accommodating for the need for information."

The president said he continues to have confidence in Attorney General Eric Holder, who has been criticized by lawmakers over the phone-record subpoenas.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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