In an interview with Bloomberg TV, former Obama chief of staff-turned-Treasury Secretary Jack Lew offered two conflicting yet carefully worded answers as to when he first learned that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) had targeted Tea Party and conservative groups: he learned last week–and possibly before the 2012 election.
Bloomberg’s Al Hunt asked Lew, whose Treasury Department oversees the IRS: “When were you first notified that IRS agents were targeting conservative groups like the Tea Party?”
Instead of answering Hunt’s question directly, however, Lew instead chose to answer when he first learned about the IG report, a tactic President Barack Obama also used earlier this week during a press conference.
“I learned the substance of this report last Friday when it became a matter of public knowledge,” Lew claimed. “Before that, in mid-March , I had had a conversation, just a getting-to-know-you conversation, with the inspector general right after I started, and he went through a number of items that were matters they were working on. And the topic of a project on the 501(c)3 issue was one of the things he briefed me was ongoing.”
Hunt then asked whether former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, Lew’s deputy, Neal Wolin, or the general counsel knew about the IRS’s political profiling of conservative groups.
“I think that there was-the heads-up that I got was something that was a matter of public knowledge,” said Lew. “It was posted on the IG’s website in the fall of 2012. I believe that other is typically the practice that an inspector general notify the agencies when matters are opened. I was not aware of any details.”
It is possible that “fall of 2012” could refer to a period of time before the election. Regardless, Lew would have discovered the investigation in his capacity as President Obama’s chief of staff, meaning that it is possible the president knew of the investigation in 2012 as well.
This is not the first time Lew has provided confusing or less-than-candid answers. During Lew’s confirmation, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) blasted Lew for misleading Congress:
Jack Lew must never be Treasury Secretary. He made a series of false representations to Congress and to the American people in a deliberate effort to deceive. The man charged with safeguarding the Treasury of the United States cannot be someone who has so thoroughly ruined his own credibility. We must have a person who, when speaking of America’s financial condition, will be totally candid.
Congressional hearings on the widening IRS scandal resume Monday.