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GOP leaders say impeachment talk premature

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 2 2015 4:43 a.m. MDT

Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., chairwoman of the Tea Party Caucus, listens at left as while Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., speaks during a news conference with Tea Party leaders about the IRS targeting Tea Party groups, Thursday, May 16, 2013, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Molly Riley, Associated Press) Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., chairwoman of the Tea Party Caucus, listens at left as while Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., speaks during a news conference with Tea Party leaders about the IRS targeting Tea Party groups, Thursday, May 16, 2013, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Molly Riley, Associated Press)

CONCORD, N.H. — The Republican National Committee chairman and a leading conservative, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, urged caution Monday for Republican critics calling for President Barack Obama's impeachment, but would not rule out impeachment altogether as new details emerged about the White House's role in the developing scandal at the Internal Revenue Service.

"There's a few chapters before we get to the last one. So it's up to us to connect the dots first," RNC chairman Reince Priebus told reporters when asked impeachment ahead of a New Hampshire GOP fundraiser.

Some conservatives have compared recent IRS wrongdoing to the Watergate scandal, while Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., last week raised the prospect of impeachment.

"There isn't a weekend that hasn't gone by that someone says to me, 'Michele, what in the world are you all waiting for in Congress? Why aren't you impeaching the president? He's been making unconstitutional actions since he came into office,'" Bachmann said during a Washington news conference with tea party leaders.

Paul, a tea party favorite who is considering a 2016 presidential bid, said such rhetoric is premature.

"We need to figure out the truth of what happened before we go anywhere else," Paul said, standing at Priebus' side.

The Internal Revenue Service has acknowledged inappropriate scrutiny of tea party groups applying for tax-exempt status ahead of the last election.

White House chief of staff Denis McDonough and other senior presidential advisers knew in late April that an upcoming report was likely to find that IRS employees had targeted conservative political groups. The White House said McDonough and the other advisers did not tell Obama about the impending report, leaving him to learn the results from news reports later.

The issue has given conservatives a new rallying cry following a disappointing 2012 election cycle. But some GOP leaders worry their criticism could backfire if it appears their attacks appear too politically motived.

While striking a moderate tone on impeachment, Paul said Monday that it "stretches credulity" to think no one else in the Obama administration knew about the misconduct.

"I don't think there's anything more un-American than taking the power of government and abusing your political opponents with it," he said.

Priebus blamed Obama for creating a culture of political "guerrilla warfare" that allowed politics to infiltrate the IRS.

"I think this is just the beginning. It's certainly not the end," Priebus said. "And I'm sure there's going to be a lot more to it. We'll see how far it goes. We'll see how high it goes too."

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