More senior White House officials were made aware of an investigation into improper conduct at the Internal Revenue Service in April than initially disclosed last week, according to press secretary Jay Carney, but they decided there was “not a need” to inform President Barack Obama until the report’s findings were completed.
“To be clear, we knew the subject of the investigation and the nature of some of the potential findings,” Carney said a daily briefing on Monday. “But we did not have a copy of the draft report, we did not know the details, the scope, or the motivation surrounding the misconduct. And we did not know who was responsible. Most importantly, the report was not final. And still very much subject to change.”
Carney previously maintained that only the White House Counsel’s office was notified in April about an impending inspector general report that found IRS agents improperly scrutinized organizations by using words such as “tea party” and “patriot” during the run up to the 2012 election.
“My understanding is that the White House Counsel’s Office was alerted in the week of April 22nd of this year, only about the fact that the IG was finishing a review about matters involving the office in Cincinnati,” he told reporters last Monday. “But that’s all they were informed as a normal sort of heads up. And we have never — we don’t have access to, nor should we, the IG’s report or any draft versions of it.”
However, after the general notification, White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler informed chief of staff Denis McDonough and “other members of the senior staff,” Carney said Monday. The president was not informed of the ongoing investigation at the direction of the counsel’s office.
“At no time did anyone on the White House staff intervene with the IRS audit,” Carney added. “There were communications with Treasury and the office of general counsel to understand the anticipated timing of the release of the report and the potential findings by the IG.”
The admission is certain to raise more questions as Republicans seek to link the scandal directly to Obama in what they say is a product of a “culture of intimidation,” an effort that has so far been unsuccessful. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), a Republican prospect for the 2016 presidential election, claimed Sunday that the IRS had a “written policy” that said agency officials were “targeting people who were opposed to the president.”
“And when that comes forward, we need to know who wrote the policy and who approved the policy,” Paul told CNN.
Igor Bobic is the assistant editor of Talking Points Memo, helping oversee the site’s coverage of politics and policy in Washington. While originally from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Igor feels best at home on the beaches of Southern California. He can be reached at email@example.com.