Steven T. Miller, the departing Internal Revenue Service chief, took responsibility on Tuesday for planting a question May 10 at a closed-door meeting with tax lawyers that prompted a top I.R.S. official to disclose that the agency had targeted conservative groups, an awkward move that prompted the inquiries now moving ahead on Capitol Hill.
Mr. Miller, testifying before the Senate Finance Committee, said top I.R.S. officials knew a Treasury inspector general audit was pending that would accuse the agency of misconduct in the special scrutiny of Tea Party and other conservative groups.
“We thought we’d get out an apology,” Mr. Miller said. “Obviously, the entire thing was an incredibly bad idea.” The story burst into the public earlier this month when a question at an American Bar Association meeting prompted Lois Lerner, who heads the I.R.S.’s division on tax-exempt organizations, to concede misconduct and apologize to conservative groups.