More evidence has emerged that the IRS' targeting of conservative groups extended beyond a few agents in a single city.
Back on May 14, a 48-page report by the IRS inspector general identified a few lower-level staff members from the Cincinnati office, acting in an insubordinate fashion, as responsible for the tea party flap.
Two weeks later, the scope of questions surrounding the case continues to expand beyond that one location. NBC News reported Thursday that letters show requests about conservative groups were made by other IRS offices.
Lois Lerner, the woman who was in charge of the IRS unit reviewing applications for these conservative groups, was among the signees listed in the NBC report. According to an appendix of a Treasury inspector general report released earlier this month, Lerner was briefed in June 2011 about the matter. She was placed on paid administrative leave as of Thursday, the Washington Post reported.
Upon being called to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform committee, Lerner vowed that she did nothing wrong before invoking her Fifth Amendment right not to testify. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who serves as chairman of the committee, said Congress is "obligated" to bring her back because she chose to make statements prior to acting on that right.
Last Tuesday, ex-Cincinnati IRS official Bonnie Esrig expressed doubts to NBC News about the claim that low-level employees acted on their own. But regarding questions that partisan motivations were at play, Esrig doubted that charge -- and White House officials have also expressed that opinion.
"The deputy secretary of the Treasury was made aware of just the fact that the investigation was beginning last year," senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer said two Sundays ago. "But no one in the White House was aware."