IRS congressional hearing: "Foolish mistakes" were made, Steven Miller says

Former Acting Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service Steve Miller (R) and Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George (L) testify during a hearing before the House Ways and Means Committee May 17, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

When the Internal Revenue Service targeted groups with the words "Tea Party" in the title, was it acting out of partisanship or just laziness? The outgoing IRS chief claims it was just a matter of people trying to lessen their workload. 

“I do not believe that partisanship motivated the practices of the people described in the IG report,” Steven Miller, the outgoing head of the IRS, said during the first public hearing into the matter. “I think that what happened here was that foolish mistakes were made by people who were trying to be efficient in their work.” 

The Justice Department has found that the IRS flagged groups with the words "Tea Party," ''Patriots" or "9/12 Project" in their applications in 2010. By August 2010, IRS written criteria  formally instructed agents to flag groups with those words for additional scrutiny.

More from GlobalPost: Obama blasts IRS tea party targeting as 'intolerable,' 'inexcusable'

President Barack Obama on Tuesday blasted the IRS' targeting of conservative groups as "inexcusable" and "intolerable."

During the hearing today, Miller agreed that flagging those terms “seemed obnoxious to us." However, he does not believe that the IRS was breaking any laws.

Republicans are trying to show that Obama was somehow involved in the scandal, and pressed Miller on whether Obama was aware of the targeting of conservative groups. Miller said that those allegations are simply untrue. “That would be a violation of law," Miller said during the hearing. “I would be shocked” if that occurred, he added.

Two additional congressional hearings are scheduled next week.