President Obama continues to insist that he first became aware of his IRS targeting conservative groups a week ago Friday when the news first broke.
This, despite the fact that his White House counsel, Kathryn Ruemmler, had been informed of the probe on April 22. And despite the fact, as the New York Times reports, that officials in his Treasury Department knew in March that tea party groups had been targeted.
The inspector general gave Republicans some fodder Friday when he divulged that he informed the Treasury’s general counsel he was auditing the I.R.S.’s screening of politically active groups seeking tax exemptions on June 4, 2012. He told Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin “shortly after,” he said. That meant Obama administration officials were aware of the matter during the presidential campaign year.
The disclosure last summer came as part of a routine briefing of the investigations that the inspector general would be conducting in the coming year, and he did not tell the officials of his conclusions that the targeting had been improper, he said.
Treasury officials stressed they did not know the results until March 2013, when the inspector presented a draft.
So the administration knew in March — a month before it was previously believed the administration had knowledge of the impropriety of the targeting program — that the president had a monumental political problem on his hands.
And yet no one bothered to tell him? His newly minted Treasury secretary claims he knew “in mid March” of the IG’s probe but says he didn’t get any of the details until a week ago Friday:
“I learned the substance of this report last Friday when it became a matter of public knowledge,” Lew said. “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 [sic] issue was one of the things he briefed me was ongoing.
“I didn’t know any of the details of it until last Friday. When I learned about it — from the moment I learned about it, I was outraged,” he added.
Yes, yes, Jackie, I’m sure your were “outraged.” But perhaps you can explain how some of your underlings knew of the “results” of the IG probe at the same time you claim to be in the dark about the “details” of the investigation?
Instead of answering that, or any other question, Treasury flaks issued a statement that answers a question nobody is asking:
“Treasury strongly supports the independent oversight of its three inspectors general, and it does not interfere in ongoing I.G. audits,” the department said in a statement Friday evening.
Nobody wants to know if Treasury “interfered” in the IG audit. Nobody asked that question. But it sure sounds good, doesn’t it?
Here’s a helpful timeline of administration knowledge of the IRS program:
1. “High level” IRS managers informed of audit in 2011. (Note: A separate timeline of IRS actions in response to finding out about the targeting program reveals that several higher-ups were aware of the political targeting and were seeking to change the criteria to a more neutral determination as early as August of 2011.)
2. Treasury Department general counsel informed on June 4, 2012, of the IG audit of the IRS.
3. Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin, a political appointee, informed “shortly after” general counsel told.
4. Treasury officials told of the “results” of the audit in March of 2013. At around the same time, Secretary Lew claims he knew of the audit but was not told any details by the IG.
5. White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler informed of the IG’s audit on April 22.
6. President Obama, Jack Lew, and anyone else who would get in trouble if it is revealed they knew about the targeting program earlier find out with the rest of us about the IRS scandal on May 10.
The list of people who knew months ago of the IRS targeting program and yet somehow forgot to tell their boss, the president of the United States, about it is growing longer.
And so is the witness list for House hearings on the matter.