The White House

By Dan Balz,
Wednesday, May 22, 2013

It is never good for an administration when a front-page newspaper article about an ongoing controversy begins as follows: “The White House offered a new account Monday of how and when it learned . . . ” That’s what readers of The Post awoke to on Tuesday. In trying to contain the controversy and protect President Obama, White House officials have only added to questions about what happened.

Until this week, the story of how White House officials learned that the Internal Revenue Service was targeting conservative groups was fairly straightforward. White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler was notified in late April that a Treasury Department inspector general’s audit of the IRS was nearing completion. The president, officials said, didn’t find out about any of it until May 10, when it became public.

The implication was that Ruemmler was told in general terms about the report and that the information was kept within her office. But over the past few days, officials have offered a more detailed description of what really happened. Ruemmler was informed that political targeting had taken place and shared that information with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and some others on the senior staff. And there were subsequent discussions between White House and Treasury officials about the report.

But no one shared any of this information with the president. Why? White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters Monday that Ruemmler had recommended not doing so. “In these situations,” he said, “the counsel made the decision that this is not the kind of thing that you notify the president of, of an investigation that’s not complete, because it wouldn’t be appropriate to do so.”

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