We knew from Jay Carney that the White House counsel, Kathryn Ruemmler, was told by Treasury Department attorneys on April 22 that an inspector general was working on a report on IRS abuses in the tax exempt shop.
What we didn't know was what exactly the IRS told Ruemmler about the report. A White House official has confirmed to the Wall Street Journal that the counsel was informed of many of the specifics that would be contained in the report, including the targeting of conservative groups.
The president keeps claiming that he didn't know anything about the targeting until the day that Lois Lerner answered the planted question about the matter at a meeting of the American Bankers Association on Friday, May 10. But if his counsel knew of the program a month ago, why wasn't he told?
President Barack Obama said last week he learned about the controversy at the same time as the public, on May 10, when an IRS official revealed it to a conference of lawyers. The president's statement drew criticism, focusing attention on his management style and whether he has kept himself sufficiently informed about the agencies under his authority.President Barack Obama said last week he learned about the controversy at the same time as the public, on May 10, when an IRS official revealed it to a conference of lawyers. The president's statement drew criticism, focusing attention on his management style and whether he has kept himself sufficiently informed about the agencies under his authority
Others, including veterans of previous scandals, said the counsel-whose role is to advise the president on all legal matters concerning his job and the White House-was right to avoid telling Mr. Obama about the audit's early findings. Doing so could have caused a new storm by creating the appearance of meddling in an independent investigation that hadn't yet concluded, former officials said.
The White House, which declined to make Ms. Ruemmler available for comment Sunday, wouldn't say whether she shared the information with anyone else in the senior administration staff.
The new detail doesn't help answer some fundamental questions about the IRS scandal, including how it began and who, if anyone, in the administration was aware of the severity of the inspector general's probe before last November's presidential election.
Instead, it focuses attention on the White House's handling of the matter, which has blown up into the kind of crisis that could persist.
When findings are so potentially damaging, the president should immediately be informed, said Lanny Davis, who served as a special counsel to President Bill Clinton.
Of the controversies dogging Mr. Obama, including the terrorist assault in Benghazi, Libya, and the Justice Department's seizure of phone records of Associated Press journalists, the IRS case "is the most nuclear issue of all," Mr. Davis said. It involves the "misuse of the IRS" and "anyone who knew about this a few weeks ago and didn't tell the president shouldn't be in the White House," Mr. Davis said.
Incompetent or a liar? Which is it, Mr. President? If that timeline continues to slip and it comes out that the White House - or the Obama campaign - knew of the investigation by the IG of targeting conservative groups before the election, the president is going to be in even bigger trouble.