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What Did the President Know About the IRS Scandal and When Did He Know It?

Assuming Lerner's leak was deliberate -- and evidence strongly suggests it was -- one must also assume it was part of a public relations effort at damage control. Conveniently, it gave the president cover to claim ignorance of the specifics in the IG report. But one has to wonder who fashioned the PR effort, timing the roll-out of the information and creating talking points to which Lerner referred during her answer. The IRS has its own public affairs shop, but are we to believe that a damage-control effort vital to Obama's presidency was handled at the agency level?

In order to assume that the White House counsel told no one in the White House of the coming IG report on April 22, we must assume that she is either brain-dead or incompetent. Former Clinton aide Lanny Davis thinks the latter:

I’ve been told today by several reporters that President Obama’s White House counsel, Kathryn Ruemmler, knew for several days — perhaps weeks —that some Internal Revenue Service officials were engaging in political targeting of conservative groups, and that she did not tell the president as soon as she knew even partial reports about the story.

With all due respect to someone who has impeccable legal credentials, if she did have such foreknowledge and didn’t inform the president immediately, I respectfully suggest Ms. Ruemmler is in the wrong job and that she should resign.


If Ms. Ruemmler did know about this IRS story and didn’t inform the president immediately, then, respectfully, that must mean she didn’t appreciate fully the mammoth legal and political implications for the U.S. government as well as the American people of a story involving IRS officials abusing power and possibly violating criminal laws.

It is also hard to understand why some people in the media who apparently knew about this foreknowledge by the White House counsel and her failure to tell the president missed this story and its significance.

When did the president know it? Davis points out that the White House counsel -- the president's personal lawyer -- is "one of the two or three most important positions on the White House staff." This is someone who presumably has nearly instant access to the president -- especially if it deals with such an explosive matter. And yet we are told that Ms. Ruemmler's lips were sealed and she played "I've got a secret," keeping the president and presumably the rest of the administration in the dark on information that could at least be called political dynamite.

So, to sum up, we are asked to believe the following about the president's foreknowledge of the IRS scandal:

1. Lois Lerner accidentally let slip the news that the IG was developing a report that was going to accuse her section of targeting conservatives.

2. IRS officials told the White House counsel on April 22 of the general nature of the IG's report but failed to provide any details.

3. White House counsel kept the information to herself, apparently not thinking the information important enough to tell the president.

4. President Obama was shocked -- shocked, I tell you -- to hear of the IRS's targeting of conservatives last Friday.

Why is this important? Who cares if the president found out three weeks ago or last Friday? After all, it doesn't prove the president ordered the IRS to go after his enemies.

No, it doesn't. But it proves the president a liar. And if he is lying about when he found out, one must ask why, Is he lying to cover up the fact that he didn't immediately go before the American people and inform them of this travesty, preferring instead to develop a damage-control plan that came to fruition last Friday? We don't know, but the press needs to pin the president down on this timeline of what he knew and when he knew it.

The people need to know if their president is a liar. Somewhere, Howard Baker is smiling.