If you believe the Washington Post’s account, White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler first learned of the IRS abuse scandal in April 2013. According to the Post, Ruemmler shared the information with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and others, while intentionally keeping President Obama in the dark until the report actually hit the streets. According to this version of events, Lois Lerner’s planted question that introduced the scandal upset a “careful plan” within the White House to manage the scandal.
Right. That’s what the Post says — “careful plan.” Whose, and what was the plan?
The episode also offers a glimpse into the workings of Obama’s insular West Wing, which has struggled to cope in recent weeks with the IRS scandal, the continued fallout from last year’s deadly attack in Benghazi, Libya, and the Justice Department’s tracking of journalists as part of leak investigations.
But Ruemmler and McDonough’s careful plan for the IRS was upended on May 10, when Lois Lerner, a senior official at the agency, broke the news by admitting that the IRS had given extra scrutiny to conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.
Senior White House officials were stunned to see the IRS trying to get ahead of its own story — and in doing so, creating a monstrous communications disaster for an administration that appeared not to know what its agencies were up to.
That doesn’t square very well with the fact that Deputy Chief of Staff Mark Childress had already worked with the IRS to roll the scandal out. Unless, that is, Lerner and fake-fired acting commissioner Steven Miller went rogue on May 10 and ran the planted question scam on their own. And Childress was also acting on his own. He still has his job, as does Lois “I plead the Fifth” Lerner. Miller was “fired” in a head fake that involves President Obama himself, as he was the one who conducted the fake firing in front of the entire nation.
But other evidence squares even less well with the White House’s current narrative.
During testimony on the scandal in the House Wednesday, it was revealed that then IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman had visited the Obama White House 118 times. That’s a staggering number, amounting to one visit a week, more or less. Shulman allowed two reasons for those visits — Easter Egg rolls, and discussing the implementation of ObamaCare. Eliminating the Easter Egg rolls leaves us with about 115 meetings if you count 2013. Did any of those meetings include discussion of the “careful plan” or his own agency’s rampant abuse of taxpayers, about which he claims he did not know?
He also claimed in 2012 that there was “absolutely” no targeting. That absolute statement has absolutely fallen apart against hard facts.
The traffic was not one-way. Shulman got his frequent visitor card punched at the White House while White House counsel, it turns out, was frequently visiting the Treasury Department’s chief counsel in late 2012. According to the Daily Caller:
Christopher J. Meade, Treasury Chief Counsel, met with Ruemmler on September 27th, December 11th, and December 13th, 2012, according to White House Visitor Records requests. The two had never met one-on-one prior to these meetings.
Meade was one of the first members of President Barack Obama’s administration to find out about the IRS investigation in June 2012, when he became the Treasury Department’s acting general counsel.
The two also met with fifteen other people on July 2nd, 2012 and with fifteen other people on July 17th.
The unusual timing of the meetings suggest that Ruemmler and potentially other White House members may have known of the IRS Inspector General Report months earlier than has been reported.
While these meetings were taking place, three things were going on. Obama was fighting re-election and hating on the Tea Party, the IRS had internally investigated the abuse and chosen not to disclose that investigation to congressional investigators, and among those later dates, the anticipated IG report on the abuse was being delayed again and again, past the election.
The Post goes out of its way to describe Ruemmler as an apolitical straight arrow who “stays in her lane” and doesn’t get involved in political messaging. Christopher Meade, on the other hand, is a lifelong leftwing activist. Meade and Ruemmler make, then, for an odd couple to be meeting frequently.
As a Princeton undergraduate, Meade, along with two other students, was arrested in February 1990 for disorderly conduct after disrupting Vice President Dan Quayle’s speech to Congressional Republicans.
In April 1989, Meade led a class boycott against Princeton University after having planned a sit-in of the Dean of Students office that resulted in a letter of reprimand. “It just seems by doing things the nice way, no one listens,” he told the Daily Princetonian in April 1989. “This will get the administration’s ear.”
Meade also led the left-wing campus group, Urban Action, which according to Meade had as its “primary purpose” “mobiliz[ing] students to get involved in issues of homelessness, gentrification, poverty, and racism.”
And so forth. Meade is a more typical Obama administration apparatchik. Interesting, then, that he was installed so high up in Treasury at the precise time a nasty abuse scandal was building. His actual legal career is undistinguished, while his leftwing agitator credentials are stellar.
Then there’s this:
J. Russell George, the Treasury Department’s inspector general for taxation, told the House Ways and Means Committee that he informed Meade and Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin in June 2012, disclosing for the first time that high-level executive branch officials knew of the inspector general’s investigation into the Internal Revenue Service’s screening of conservative political groups. Meade’s conferences with Ruemmler began the following month.
All these meetings — the IRS union head meeting Obama the day before the abuse began, the IRS chief going to the White House 118 times, the Treasury’s hard-left principal deputy general meeting with the White House’s “straight arrow” counsel — just happened to be taking place as the abuse built up and metastasized, and as it was being investigated.
There’s a lot of smoke in here.