(Adds details from Hofacre transcript, 20 more interviews sought)
By Kim Dixon
WASHINGTON, June 13 (Reuters) - Congressional investigators probing the U.S. Internal Revenue Service's scrutiny of conservative political groups will interview a key Washington IRS official on Friday and want to speak with as many as 20 more people, sources told Reuters on Thursday.
IRS lawyer Carter Hull will be deposed by congressional lawyers on Friday, said sources close to the Republican-controlled House of Representatives committee taking the lead in an inquiry that involves several panels on Capitol Hill.
In an earlier interview with the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, a lower-level worker from the IRS office in Cincinnati criticized Hull for micro-managing the processing of applications for tax-exempt status from conservative groups when they began emerging in 2010.
Congressional panels and the FBI are investigating revelations that came to light last month about the IRS using terms such as "Tea Party" and "Patriot" to single out groups for scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status through the Cincinnati office.
Some Republicans have alleged there were political motives behind the practice and are trying to find evidence linking it to the White House.
An audit last month from the U.S. Treasury inspector general for tax administration, which monitors the IRS, found no evidence of political or White House involvement. The congressional panels are conducting their own investigations.
At least five IRS officials have given transcribed interviews so far to congressional investigators. Those interviewed include four workers in Cincinnati and Holly Paz, a mid-level Washington official who oversaw tax-exemption applications. Paz was replaced last week.
Hull was involved early on in assisting the Cincinnati office to review applications, according to a transcript of a congressional interview with an IRS specialist in Cincinnati.
Attempts to reach Hull were unsuccessful.
Elizabeth Hofacre handled Tea Party applications and told investigators that Hull reviewed her responses to applicants, according to transcripts reviewed by Reuters.
Hofacre was in charge of the Tea Party applications in April 2010 and was the primary specialist on them until October of that year, when she applied for and got another job within the IRS, she said in the interview.
Hofacre was inconsistent about how much authority Washington asserted over her handling of the cases. In one exchange she said, "I had no autonomy." In another, she said, "They gave me leeway ... they weren't involved in actual reviewing."
At least one Cincinnati IRS official not previously interviewed was called in to speak with investigators this week, according to a congressional committee source involved in the inquiry.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has identified about 20 more officials for future interviews, another source close to the process said.
Leaders of the House committee have been squabbling all week about whether to release full transcripts of the interviews their staffers have done.
Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, a Republican, first released selected excerpts from some interviews on June 2. He was criticized for that by Elijah Cummings, the committee's top Democrat, for "cherry picking" statements to prove there was political involvement.
Cummings on Sunday unveiled his own selected excerpts, including comments from an IRS manager in Cincinnati who described himself as a "conservative Republican."
Cummings said the interview showed the screening of conservative groups originated in Cincinnati office and called on Issa to release the full transcripts completed thus far.
To respond to Issa's contention that doing so would compromise the investigation, Cummings proposed Issa redact portions that would interfere with the investigation by Monday. (Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Peter Cooney)
Also on HuffPost:
President Barack Obama
"This is pretty straightforward," Obama said at a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/13/obama-irs-scandal_n_3266577.html" target="_blank">press conference</a>. "If, in fact, IRS personnel engaged in the kind of practices that have been reported on and were intentionally targeting conservative groups, then that is outrageous, and there is no place for it, and they have to be held fully accountable, because the IRS as an independent agency requires absolute integrity and people have to have confidence that they are applying the laws in a non-partisan way. You should feel that way regardless of party." (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)
Rubio <a href="http://www.rubio.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/press-releases?ID=bc8ce2a9-4e95-4792-8744-501d0c1b63b3" target="_blank">penned a letter</a> to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew demanding the IRS commissioner's resignation. The letter begins: "Recent revelations about the Internal Revenue Service’s selective and deliberate targeting of conservative organizations are outrageous and seriously concerning. This years-long abuse of government power is an assault on the free speech rights of all Americans. This direct assault on our Constitution further justifies the American people’s distrust in government and its ability to properly implement our laws." (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio)
"The admission by the Obama administration that the Internal Revenue Service targeted political opponents echoes some of the most shameful abuses of government power in 20th-century American history. Today, we are left with serious questions: who is ultimately responsible for this travesty? What actions will the Obama administration take to hold them accountable? And have other federal agencies used government powers to attack Americans for partisan reasons? House Republicans have made oversight of federal agencies a top priority on behalf of the American people, and I applaud the work that members such as Charles Boustany, Darrell Issa and Jim Jordan have done to bring this issue to light. I also strongly support Sen. McConnell’s call for a transparent, government-wide review to ensure similar practices are not happening elsewhere in the federal bureaucracy," Boehner said in a <a href="http://www.speaker.gov/press-release/speaker-boehner-statement-irs-targeting-conservative-groups" target="_blank">statement</a>. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.)
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.)
Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.)
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)
Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.)
Buchanan also <a href="http://buchanan.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=4787:buchanan-to-treasury-secretary-the-nations-trust-in-government-was-betrayed&catid=1:latest-news" target="_blank">wrote a letter</a> calling for the IRS commissioner's resignation. His letter reads: "On March 22, 2012, as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee which oversees the IRS, we heard then-Commissioner Douglas Shulman clearly state that the IRS did not engage in the practices of which it is now accused saying "there is absolutely no targeting." Yet, less than a year earlier, Commissioner Shulman's own deputy, Lois Lerner, was made aware that such malpractice had indeed occurred. It became evident that groups with "tea party" or "patriot" in their names were extremely vulnerable to auditing harassment. Even nonprofit organizations that sought to educate Americans about the U.S. Constitution were unfairly singled out for scrutiny. The nation's trust in government was betrayed by this unconscionable behavior. On behalf of my constituents, your immediate response is not only warranted but essential to clearing up a matter that would have our founding fathers rolling in their graves." (AP Photo/Steve Nesius, File)
Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.)
Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.)
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.)
Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas)
Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.)
"It is unconscionable that the IRS deliberately targeted individuals based on their political beliefs. Absolutely no one should come under extra scrutiny from the IRS because of their political affiliation. It’s simply un-American," Paulsen said in a <a href="http://paulsen.house.gov/press-releases/paulsen-statement-on-fridays-hearing-examining-irs-targeting-conservative-groups/" target="_blank">statement</a>. (Photo by Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-Texas)
“I have long been concerned with reports that the IRS has unfairly targeted some political groups over others – a charge that they have repeatedly denied. In March 2012, I sent IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman a letter demanding an explanation of this unacceptable behavior. Now, more than a year later, the IRS has admitted to what we have long suspected – it was targeting tea party groups. The IRS’s actions are unacceptable, and I commend Chairman Dave Camp and Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Charles Boustany for moving forward with a full investigation. We will continue to work to ensure there are protections in place so no American, regardless of political affiliation, has their right to free speech threatened by the IRS," Marchant said in a <a href="http://marchant.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=333635" target="_blank">statement</a>. (Photo By Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call)
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah)
Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.)
Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.)
Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.)
Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.)
Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.)
<i>CORRECTION: An earlier version of this slideshow incorrectly identified Udall as a Republican.</i>
Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.)
Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.)
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas)
“Today’s revelation that the IRS targeted average Americans using taxpayer dollars solely for disagreeing with them politically is completely unacceptable from this Administration. “Partisan politics have consistently characterized this White House, and the Administration must take immediate disciplinary action and ensure American citizens are not subject to this type of Orwellian persecution again," Cornyn said in a <a href="http://www.cornyn.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=NewsReleases&ContentRecord_id=ebc9edeb-f748-45cf-a6b3-0143c6cb41c0" target="_blank">statement</a>. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)