Republicans

DOJ spokesman caught trying to work with Dems on IRS probe coverage, Issa says

FILE: Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Rep. Darrell Issa listens to his staff member during the Committee hearing.

FILE: Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Rep. Darrell Issa listens to his staff member during the Committee hearing.  (REUTERS)

A Justice Department spokesman apparently accidentally called the office of House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Darrell Issa last week and, according to Issa, asked to release documents about the IRS targeting scandal to “interested reporters” before Issa had the chance to share them.

Then the “audibly shaken” spokesman seemed to realize what he had done and tried to back off his request, the California Republican congressman said.  

Issa detailed the staffer’s awkward mistake in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday, saying he had “serious concerns” about the incident. The letter was first reported by Breitbart News. 

Issa, whose committee is investigating the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups, said it was clear the spokesman was attempting to reach the office of Rep. Elijah Cummings, the ranking member on the committee. Issa said he believes this sort of collaboration happens regularly.

“This effort to preemptively release incomplete and selectively chosen information undermines the (DOJ’s) claims that it is responding in good faith,” he said.

The spokesman in question, Brian Fallon, confirmed to Fox News that he had called Issa’s office, but said he could not confirm “characterizations of the call contained in the letter or the motive they attribute to me.”

“There is nothing inappropriate about department staff having conversations with both the majority and minority staff as they prepare responses to formal inquiries,” Fallon said in a statement. “That includes conversations between the spokespeople for the Department and the committee.”

According to Issa, Fallon, who is not named in the letter, called his office on Friday and asked to speak with a member of the committee’s communications team.

Fallon then said the DOJ’s Office of Legislative Affairs would not let him release the documents in question to the media directly, but that he wanted to make sure “interested reporters” got their hands on it before “the Majority,” meaning Issa, could share it.

Fallon said he wished to do that so the DOJ could have the “opportunity” to comment on the documents before they were shared by Issa’s office.

After this, Fallon seemed to realize his mistake, according to Issa, and changed his tune. He said there had been a “change of plans,” that the DOJ would not plan on releasing the documents early and the DOJ would “defer to the Chairman,” again meaning Issa.

Issa called the phone call “confirmation” that Cummings, D-Md., was collaborating with the Obama administration to “prejudice” the committee’s work on the IRS probe.

An Oversight Committee Democratic staffer told Fox News it is clear Fallon “doesn’t know our staff that well” and they never received a call regarding the documents.

“Had he called us, we would have told him the same thing we tell every agency: that our policy is to make our own independent decisions based on serving the best interests of the public,” the staffer said.

Fox News' Chad Pergram contributed to this report.