Did the IRS break the law by targeting Tea Partiers?

Republicans are demanding jail time for IRS officials, while the IRS chief says no laws were broken

Former acting commissioner of the IRS, Steve Miller, right, and Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, J. Russell George, testify during a May 17 hearing.
(Image credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

As the Obama administration tries to regain its footing after a tough two weeks, White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer made the rounds on the Sunday talk shows this week. One exchange raised some eyebrows. When ABC News' George Stephanopoulos asked Pfeiffer if anyone at the IRS broke the law by singling out conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status, he responded: "I can't speak to the law here. The law is irrelevant."

After Pfeiffer elaborated — "The activity was outrageous and inexcusable, and it was stopped and it needs to be fixed to ensure it never happens again" — Stephanopoulos stopped him: "You don't really mean the law is irrelevant, do you?" It wasn't, exactly. The Justice Department is investigating whether any laws were broken, Pfeiffer responded, but "the president is not going to wait for that."

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