White House Under Siege over IRS Investigation Timeline
On Tuesday, White House Spokesperson Jay Carney claimed that President Barack Obama and other White House officials were unaware that an independent inspector general had been investigating the IRS about whether it targeted conservative groups until they read about it in press reports last Friday, even though the White House general council's office was notified "several weeks ago" about the investigation.
When pressed by reporters about how he could "categorically" be so sure that nobody in the White House knew about the IRS's actions before Friday, Carney deflected the questions. He became less steadfast in his defense, saying he had "no reason to believe" anyone inside the White House knew about the investigation prior to last Friday.
Carney made his comments a day after Obama publicly said he had not known about the IRS's actions until last Friday. The White House spokesperson also said on Monday that the general council's office was notified on April 22, and noted when an inspector general report is about to be released, "a notification is appropriate and routine--and that is what happened several weeks ago."
He said the White House has not seen the report and needs to wait for the findings of the inspector general before the White House could "jump to conclusions" about what happened and whether there was a deliberate and inappropriate targeting of groups.
Last Friday, Lois Lerner, the IRS official who leads the division that oversees tax-exempt groups, issued an apology for the agency's inappropriate targeting of groups that had "Tea Party" or "Patriot" in their names. Over the weekend, multiple media reports indicated the IRS targeted conservative groups as far back as 2010 and even leaked information about conservative groups to liberal organizations.
On Monday, media reports indicated IRS officials in Washington, D.C. and other offices outside of the Cincinnati branch--like the Laguna Niguel, California division--also targeted conservative and Tea Party grops.
Despite these reports and Lerner's admission, Carney continued to insist Obama would be outraged and take "appropriate" action only "if" these reports were true. He said the White House was waiting for the inspector general's report to be released, but then again insisted that he believed no one within the White House knew about the investigation before last Friday.