Obama: IRS Scrutiny of Conservative Groups ‘Outrageous’ if True

BY Larisa Epatko  May 13, 2013 at 10:03 AM EST

Watch Monday’s full news conference with President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Updated 12:45 p.m. ET:

President Barack Obama said Monday that if an inspector general review of the Internal Revenue Service shows the tax agency gave conservative groups more intense scrutiny, “then that’s outrageous and there’s no place for it.”

The Treasury Department’s inspector general is expected to release a report this week.

Mr. Obama said the IRS personnel responsible for the targeted scrutiny of the groups have to be held fully accountable for the sake of the public’s trust. “People have to have confidence that they’re … applying the laws in a non-partisan way,” he said. “So we’ll wait and see what exactly all the details and the facts are. But I’ve got no patience with it. I will not tolerate it.”

He also criticized the focus by some lawmakers on how the White House and State Department helped shape the administration’s talking points on the Benghazi, Libya, consulate attacks, calling it a “sideshow” and drain on efforts to make sure similar attacks never happen again. (Read more.)

The president’s comments came at a joint press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron, who just came from meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the civil war in Syria.

On Syria, Cameron said he welcomed Putin’s agreement to join a diplomatic effort to find a solution, but he said there could be no political solution until the opposition shows Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that there is no military solution. Anti-government forces have been fighting the regime there for more than two years.

“Syria’s history is being written by the blood of its people,” said Cameron.

An EU arms embargo on Syria was amended to allow technical support and advice to the opposition, but Cameron said more should be done to help the opposition, such as delivering body armor and chemical weapons detectors.

“If we don’t help the Syrian opposition, who we do recognize as being legitimate … then we shouldn’t be surprised if the extremist elements grow,” he said. Cameron said he and Putin might have different perspectives on how to handle Syria but they both agree that extremism shouldn’t be allowed to take root there.

Original Story:

President Obama meets with British Prime Minister David Cameron at the White House Monday, where the two are expected to talk about the more than two-year-old civil war in Syria. Britain is pushing for a stronger response to Syria’s Bashar al-Assad regime but like the United States doesn’t want to send ground troops.

They will address reporters’ questions at a press briefing at 11:15 a.m. EDT.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said last week that the two probably also would discuss Iran and the Middle East peace process, along with other matters.

In addition, President Obama likely will be asked about reports the IRS was giving extra scrutiny to tea party and other groups targeting government spending. An inspector general report is expected to come out on the issue later this week. Congress intends to hold hearings.

Cameron is experiencing his own problems at home after members of his Conservative Party said the U.K. should leave the European Union, instead of waiting to see what could be done to improve Britain’s relations with the EU. “The idea of throwing in the towel before the negotiation’s started I think is a very, very strange opinion,” Cameron told reporters on his way to the United States.

The two world leaders will meet again in June when Cameron hosts the G8 summit of industrialized nations in Northern Ireland.

The last time Cameron visited the United States was in March 2012, when he and President Obama discussed security issues in Afghanistan after U.S. troops leave in 2014:

View more of PBS NewsHour’s World coverage.