(Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta, AP)
WASHINGTON (USA TODAY) -- Facing a wall of outrage from GOP lawmakers over
revelations that the Internal Revenue Service targeted "tea party"
groups and non-profit organizations that criticized the government.
President Obama on Monday called the actions by agency personnel
"outrageous" and said "there is no place for it."
who appeared alongside British Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday,
weighed in on the IRS controversy for the first time and attempted to
head off snowballing criticism from Republican lawmakers that the
president hadn't personally condemned the agency targeting conservative
political groups for extra scrutiny.
Obama said he first learned
about the IRS targeting of conservative groups from news reports on
Friday. He said those responsible for the practice should be held "fully
Lois Lerner, the IRS director of exempt
organization, on Friday admitted the agency made "mistakes" in the last
few years and that employees in the agency's Cincinnati office routinely
required conservative organizations seeking non-profit status to
undergo more scrutiny.
Multiple conservative groups have said
their applications were delayed and returned with lengthy requests for
supporting materials, sometimes including website printouts and lists of
"You don't want the IRS ever being perceived to be biased," Obama said.
added that neither party wants the IRS to be perceived as "anything
less than neutral in terms of how they operate." He added: "This is
something that I think people are properly concerned about."
the president pointed to the inspector general's ongoing investigation ,
Obama said he would not comment prematurely on specific findings.
president added that his administration will get to the bottom of what
happened at the IRS. "I have no patience for it. I will not tolerate it.
Obama also faced a difficult question about the
administration's response to last year's terror attack on a U.S.
facility in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans, including U.S.
Ambassador Christopher Stevens, dead.
E-mails unveiled last week
show the State Department and other senior administration officials
asking that references to terror groups and prior warnings be deleted
from a unclassified memo on talking points about the incident shortly
after the attack
GOP lawmakers have also criticized that the State
Department board that reviewed the incident didn't interview Secretary
of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. As the president held his press
conference, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee
Chairman Darrell Issa announced that he had sent letters to Benghazi
Accountability Review Board (ARB) co-chairs former Ambassador Thomas
Pickering and former Admiral Mike Mullen requesting that they submit to
transcribed interviews in anticipation of a public hearing on the
"Three senior State
Department officials who testified at the hearing criticized the ARB's
work as 'incomplete' and flawed because the ARB did not interview key
witnesses and failed to hold senior officials accountable," wrote Issa
in the ltetter to Pickering. "On May 12, 2013, you defended the ARB's
work on 'Face the Nation.' You stated that those criticisms are
'unfair' ... The White House and the State Department have touted the
ARB's report as the definitive account of how and why the Benghazi
attacks occurred. It is necessary for the Committee to understand
whether the criticisms of the ARB's work that we heard from witnesses on
May 8, 2013 are valid."
But the president pushed
back that his administration officials have been forthcoming about
Benghazi and suggested that Republicans are more interested in scoring
political points than figuring out how to prevent such incidents from
happening again in hotspots where U.S. diplomats and other personnel are
"There is no there, there," Obama said.
and Cameron met for about hour at the White House before the new
conference. Cameron said their talks centered on the economy, the
ongoing civil war in Syria and next month's G-8 summit that Cameron will
host in Northern Ireland.
Both Cameron and Obama acknowledged
they have a difficult task in persuading Russia to abandon Syrian
President Bashar Assad's regime.
Obama noted that there are
long-term "suspicions" by Russia toward the G-8 alliancewhich includes
the USA, Britain and Russia-- but both he and Cameron were trying to
"break down" some of those suspicions
"As a leader on the world
stage, Russia has an interest and obligation to resolve this issue that
can lead to outcome we all want to see in the long-term," Obama said.
"Syria's history is being written in the blood of her people," Cameron said. He added "and it is happening under our watch."