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IRS attorney who helped manage Tea Party targeting retires

The IRS attorney who allegedly helped direct the targeting of Tea Party groups and other conservative organizations says he has retired, amid lingering concerns over when and whether agency officials might face discipline over the scandal. 

The career attorney, Carter Hull, was rumored to be nearing retirement. A prior report said he had requested his government retirement package back in March, before the scandal broke. 

Amid at least three congressional investigations and a Justice Department probe, it appears Hull has left the government. A message on Hull's Washington office phone says he has retired and refers callers to another agency employee. 

The IRS on Wednesday would not confirm the 72-year-old Hull's employment status. 

But his apparent departure from government does not mean the pressure from Congress will abate. 

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has announced a hearing on the IRS scandal for next Thursday. It's unclear whether Hull will be among the witnesses called, but Chairman Darrell Issa says it will include "witnesses from both the Washington and Cincinnati offices" of the IRS. He said they will be asked to explain why "orders from senior levels within the IRS resulted in inappropriate and disparate treatment for Tea Party applications." 

A committee aide told FoxNews.com that Hull's resignation "doesn't affect us at this point in time," indicating it would not impede the investigation.
The aide noted that the investigation is still "active," with a "lot more people to interview" -- and nobody has been directly implicated by the committee. 

"It would be a mistake to say the committee's investigation has laid any blame at the foot of any particular individual," the aide said. 

Hull's name surfaced weeks after the revelation in early May about how agents at the Cincinnati field office had targeted the groups for additional information in 2010 and 2011 when they applied for tax-exempt status. 

According to closed-door House testimony last month reviewed by Fox News, Cincinnati agent Elizabeth Hofacre told congressional investigators she was initially the field officer assigned the Tea Party cases but that she was "micromanaged to death" by Hull, a tax law specialist in the Exempt Organizations technical office in Washington. 

"It was demeaning," Hofacre said. "I had no autonomy at all through the process." 

She also described members of Tea Party groups calling to learn whether they had been granted tax-exempt status, after having the applications delayed by the extra scrutiny. 

"I remember saying and thinking: 'This is ridiculous,' " she told the investigators. "You are getting calls from irate taxpayers. And I see their point. Even if a decision isn't favorable, they deserve some kind of treatment. And they deserve timeliness." 

Hull was reportedly interviewed by investigators on June 14, but the transcript has not yet been made available to reporters. 

FoxNews.com attempted to reach Hull at another non-office number, but he did not answer. 

A leading Tea Party group, asked about Hull's retirement, voiced concern about whether heads will roll at the IRS. 

"I want to know when people responsible for this will held accountable," Jenny Beth Martin, cofounder and national coordinator for Tea Party Patriots, told FoxNews.com. 

IRS Commissioner Douglas H. Shulman, who ran the agency during the targeting in 2010 and 2011, left the IRS late last year, before the scandal broke this spring. He has since been called to testify on the Hill. 

Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller was asked to resign in May, though much if not all of the targeting had stopped by the time he took over for Shulman. However, no IRS official directly involved in the targeting has been known to have been fired, despite agency officials apologizing for the activities. 

The spokesperson for the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, whose May 14 audit uncovered the scandal, told FoxNews.com on Wednesday the office "continues to review matters."