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Obama says watchdog report's findings on IRS 'intolerable'

President Barack Obama pauses as he responds to a question during a news conference with Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron in the East
President Barack Obama pauses as he responds to a question during a news conference with Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron in the East

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Tuesday called the findings in a government report about the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of conservative groups for extra scrutiny intolerable and said he has directed his administration to hold those responsible for the agency's actions accountable.

"The report's findings are intolerable and inexcusable," Obama said in a statement on the Treasury Department's investigation. "The IRS must apply the law in a fair and impartial way, and its employees must act with utmost integrity. This report shows that some of its employees failed that test."

Obama was commenting on a report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration into IRS practices that came to light in recent days. The IRS had used key words such as "Tea Party" and "Patriot" for picking out applications by groups seeking tax-exempt status for extra scrutiny.

Lois Lerner, a senior IRS official, apologized for the actions last week, but the revelation has embarrassed the agency and put the White House on the defensive. The report said the criteria used to target conservative groups gave the appearance that IRS "is not impartial in conducting its mission."

Obama said he has directed Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to hold those responsible for the IRS's actions accountable.

"Regardless of how this conduct was allowed to take place, the bottom line is, it was wrong," Obama said.

Lew said in a statement that the report found no evidence that any individual or organization outside the IRS influenced the decision to use these criteria.

(Reporting By Mark Felsenthal; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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