President Obama on Wednesday demanded and accepted the resignation of the acting commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, Steven T. Miller, as part of a multi-pronged effort to quell controversies that threaten to dominate his second term.

The action was Obama’s first substantive step to address a political uproar stemming from the IRS’s disclosure that it had targeted conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status. It capped a day when the White House tried to dampen two other furors that had put Obama on the defensive — the Justice Department’s seizure of Associated Press phone records and the administration’s editing of talking points about the deadly attacks in Benghazi, Libya, last year.
In a brief but fiery evening statement in the East Room of the White House, Obama labeled the IRS’s actions “inexcusable.”

“Americans are right to be angry about it, and I’m angry about it,” he said, adding that he “will not tolerate this kind of behavior in any agency, but especially in the IRS, given the power that it has and the reach that it has.”

The administration also took the extraordinary step of releasing a letter from Treasury Secretary Jack Lew in which he demanded that Miller resign in order “to restore public trust and confidence in the IRS.”

The forceful response underscored just how damaging the IRS scandal and the other issues could become for a second-term president trying to secure an ambitious array of legislative achievements. Obama and his aides have been criticized in recent days by opponents and supporters alike for a slow and seemingly passive response to the controversies.

The White House also released 100 e-mails Wednesday detailing discussions among administration officials on how to respond to the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on a diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya. The release of the e-mails was an effort to rebut GOP allegations that the White House had edited talking points about the attack to play down the possibility it was terrorism.

Earlier in the day, the White House signaled that it would support a renewed effort by lawmakers to pass a “media shield law” that gives new protections to journalists facing subpoenas. That followed growing criticism of the Justice Department for obtaining the phone records of Associated Press journalists as part of a national security leak investigation.

Republicans said Obama’s efforts at the IRS did not assuage their concerns.

“More than two years after the problem began, and a year after the IRS told us there was no problem, the president is beginning to take action,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). “If the president is as concerned about this issue as he claims, he’ll work openly and transparently with Congress to get to the bottom of the scandal — no stonewalling, no half-answers, no withholding of witnesses.”

Testifying before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. defended his agency’s decision to obtain AP’s phone records and vowed to pursue any criminal wrongdoing by IRS officials.

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