WHITE HOUSE — President Barack Obama says Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has asked for and received the resignation of the acting director of the Internal Revenue Service. The tax collecting agency was found to have been improperly targeting conservative groups.
The president spoke Wednesday after meeting with Lew and his top deputy to review a report from the Treasury Department inspector general. The report found that the IRS singled out for scrutiny conservative groups which were seeking tax-exempt status.
Top IRS officials acknowledged the abuses earlier this week and apologized.
Obama said new leadership is needed in the agency.
“Today, Secretary Lew took the first step by requesting and accepting the resignation of the acting commissioner of the IRS," said President Obama. "Because given the controversy surrounding this audit, it is important to institute new leadership that can help restore confidence going forward.”
Obama, who some critics say has not responded quickly or strongly enough, said he is angry about the incident.
“I have reviewed the Treasury Department watchdog’s report, and the misconduct that it uncovered is inexcusable. It is inexcusable, and Americans are right to be angry about it, and I am angry about it," said Obama.
The president said he has directed Secretary Lew to immediately put in place the safeguards the inspector general has proposed to prevent any further abuses.
He also said his administration will work with Congress to investigate and ensure that actions of this kind are never repeated.
“Democrats and Republicans owe it to the American people to treat that authority with the responsibility it deserves, and in a way that does not smack of politics and partisan agendas," he said.
Earlier Wednesday, the Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, alleged that crimes were committed in the matter.
“My question is not about who is going to resign," said Boehner. "My question is, who is going to jail over this scandal?”
Obama promised to take reporters’ questions on the matter Thursday, at a news conference after his White House meeting with visiting Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The president is also dealing with two other controversies - the administration’s response to last year’s deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, and the government seizure of Associated Press phone records in a leak investigation.