Carney: White House, Treasury strategized how to tell public
By Justin Sink - 05/21/13 02:47 PM ET
Officials in the White House discussed how and when the Internal Revenue Service would tell the public that the agency had targeted political groups, White House press secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday.
Carney said that Mark Childress, the White House deputy chief of staff, twice spoke with officials at the Treasury Department about the strategy for revealing conservative targeting.
Childress and the Treasury officials discussed the possibility that Lois Lerner, the IRS official who oversaw the agency's tax-exempt organization, would reveal that an inspector general's investigation had found misconduct in a speech. They also discussed the possibility that then-acting IRS director Steve Miller could receive questions about the IG investigation in congressional testimony.
According to Carney, the officials discussed “what [Miller] would say” if asked about the issue.
The press secretary went on to characterize the discussion “as just part of trying to find out when and under what circumstances this information would be released, made public, and what those findings would be.”
But Carney insisted that the White House had no knowledge of the agency's eventual plan — to plant a question at an ABA conference for Lerner earlier this month.
“It's a nice hypothetical, but that didn't happen,” Carney said.
Carney said that while multiple senior staff were made aware of the findings of the IG report, the decision by the IRS to plant the question and publicly apologize for the targeting came from outside the White House.
He added that he, like President Obama, was unaware of the targeting before news coverage of Lerner's revelation, and that he did not help formulate a press strategy ahead of the news.
“I was not informed,” Carney said, adding that he rejected the “suggestion that I should have known, or that the president should have known earlier so that I could have said something, or done something.”
“All of these questions suggest that somehow the president should have done something in the midst of an independent [investigation],” Carney added.
Carney also said Tuesday he was "confident" that nobody in the White House was aware of the investigation before April 16, the first time the White House acknowledges officials were notified that an IG report was being prepared.
"I am confident that this is when the first notification came, as part of a series of items that were being included in general heads up about pending matters to a member of the White House Counsel's Office," Carney said.
Republicans on Capitol Hill again accused the White House of shifting their story on who knew about the IRS scandal.
On Monday, Carney revealed for the first time that White House Counsel Kathy Ruemmler was originally told that the IRS inspector general was finishing a report about “IRS employees improperly scrutinizing” Tea Party groups. Carney also revealed that Chief of Staff Denis McDonough were informed in April.
“Why are we still learning new information about how the White House was involved in the IRS audit?” tweeted Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).
Editor's note: This story has been changed to correct who Deputy White House Chief of Staff Mark Childress spoke with about the strategy for revealing the IRS's actions. It was updated at 3:36 p.m.