White House Counsel Knew Weeks Prior About IRS Plan To Target Conservatives: Was U.S. President Kept in the Dark? (Video)
May 20, 2013 05:44 PM EDT
Two senior aides to President Barack Obama knew in late April about a watchdog report that the U.S. Internal Revenue Service had targeted conservative groups in 2012, Reuters reported. This was three weeks prior to when Obama, himself, said he learned about the inquiry from media reports.
White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler was told on April 24 about the upcoming report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration on the IRS practice. The question around Capitol Hill persists whether this information had ever been relayed to the president himself.
Rummler was told that the report would address "line IRS employees improperly scrutinizing... organizations by using words such as Tea Party and Patriot," White House Spokesman Jay Carney said.
"While we had indication of the likely findings, until the [inspector general] finalizes his report, the findings and conclusions are subject to change. That's why we had to wait, appropriately, until the report was publicized or published for the president to be able to review it and respond, as he did very quickly."
Obama fired acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller last Wednesday, calling the inspector findings "outrageous." Miller insisted in testimony that the report did not find any evidence of political motivation for the targeting or of any White House involvement.
Obama said that he learned about the controversy at the same time as the public when an IRS official revealed it to a conference of lawyers, on May 10. His statements drew criticism from both sides of the aisle, and by the media, since it pointed to not owning up to his managerial responsibilities as executive. If he had been kept in the dark, the question remains why, since after all, it is the duty of the White House Counsel to relay all information of concern to the president.
"Exactly who in the administration knew what about the IRS targeting is one of the key outstanding questions," said California Representative Darrell Issa, chairman of a House oversight committee that plans to hold a hearing on Wednesday on the matter, in an emailed statement to the Wall Street Journal.
"In waiting so long to address wrongdoing and inform the public, President Obama and his administration seem more preoccupied with having deniability than quickly addressing serious wrongdoing," Mr. Issa added.