Senior White House officials knew for nearly a month that the Internal Revenue Service was under investigation for targeting conservative groups, but they decided not to tell President Obama about the incident, the White House said Monday.
The admission shows the White House knew about the IRS activities and investigation earlier than previously acknowledged.
Once White House officials were told of the probe, the president’s chief counsel, Kathy Ruemmler, determined the issue was not worthy of bringing to Obama’s attention until the final report of the investigation was complete, White House press secretary Jay Carney said.
The White House still insists Obama first learned from news reports that the IRS was targeting conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.
When asked if Obama was angry his top aides left him in the dark about potential political scandal, Carney said the president viewed such actions as “entirely appropriate.”
“No one in this building intervened in an ongoing independent investigation or did anything that could be seen as intervening,” he said.
It was a brutal briefing for Obama’s top spokesman, who at one point said he was not even sure if he knew last week about senior staff being aware of the audit.
Carney refused to answer repeated questions about the Justice Department accessing security-badge data, phone records and the personal email account of Fox News reporter James Rosen, part of the Obama administration’s attempt to identify the source of a government leak of information to the media. Obama is already under fire because his Justice Department had secretly monitored the phone lines of Associated Press journalists.
Carney also declined to answer whether, as a former reporter, he viewed the pursuit of sensitive government information as “criminal.”
“Worst Briefing of Carney’s tenure,” one veteran Democratic strategist volunteered in an email to The Washington Examiner. “What the [expletive] was that?”
Yet, Carney continued to recite his talking points.
“I cannot comment on a specific, ongoing investigation,” he said repeatedly, despite a chorus of sighs from the White House press corps.