White House Press Secretary Jay Carney began his daily briefing Tuesday with a firm denial that any White House officials had knowledge of or participated in the targeting of conservative groups by the Internal Revenue Service.

“No,” he said when asked if anyone at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. was involved in the simmering controversy.

The rest of his answers on the situation, however, were not so emphatic.

“We found out about this … very broadly just a few weeks ago,” Carney said. “We learn about everything we know about this from what we see in your reports. So, that’s why we have to wait for the inspector general’s report before we can assess — based on that and what it tells us what we know about what happened and what didn’t — and what actions should be taken.”

But if Carney was unable to comment on the IRS scandal until the IG report was issued, how then could he be so confident that no White House officials were involved?

Faced with that conundrum, President Obama’s top spokesman changed his tune after further questioning from the White House press corps.

“That’s a fair point,” Carney conceded. “I have no reason to believe … I can tell you that I am not aware of anyone here knowing about it … and [am] confident that no one here was involved in this.”

At the same time, across town, Attorney General Eric Holder announced the Justice Department was launching a criminal investigation into the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups.