Obama Lawyer Learned of IRS Case Weeks Ago, But...

New questions raised about White House approach to scandal

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted May 20, 2013 8:34 AM CDT

(Newser) – Several weeks ago, the White House's chief counsel heard that a nearly-finished investigation of the IRS pointed to Tea Party targeting—and apparently kept President Obama in the dark about it, a top administration official tells the Wall Street Journal. The White House hasn't said whether chief counsel Kathryn Ruemmler told any other top-ranking officials, and the revelation has prompted a debate about whether she should have.

Observers weigh in on the news:

  • A scandal like this needs immediate reporting to the president, says a former Bill Clinton counsel. "Anyone who knew about this a few weeks ago and didn't tell the president shouldn't be in the White House."
  • But had Ruemmler "called people over to the White House for a full briefing to know all the details, you know what we'd be talking about now? We'd be talking about whether she had tried to interfere with the IG's investigation," argues another former counsel to the Clinton White House.
  • Obama aide Dan Pfeiffer, who dropped by all the top morning talk shows yesterday, says the situation "was handled in the exact appropriate way ... We do not ever do anything to give the appearance of interference in an investigation. What would be an actual scandal would be if we somehow were involved." He called the current controversies surrounding the White House "partisan fishing expeditions, trumped-up hearings, and false allegations," the New York Times notes.

President Barack Obama walks on the South Lawn after returning to the White House in Washington, Sunday, May 19, 2013.
President Barack Obama walks on the South Lawn after returning to the White House in Washington, Sunday, May 19, 2013.   (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
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