WSJ Reports 'Obama's Counsel Was Told of IRS Audit Findings Weeks Ago'; Almost All But NYT So Far Ignoring

Saturday, David Espo at the Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press, engaged in an execrable exercise in advocacy journalism entitled "Obama Agenda Marches on Despite Controversies."

Yesterday (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), I took apart Espo's claim that there is a "lack of evidence to date of wrongdoing close to the Oval Office" by showing that in at least five situations -- Fast and Furious, Benghazi, IRS targeting, AP phone snooping, and HHS's shaking down of insurance companies to fund ObamaCare promotions -- have all been known by people who directly report to the President, and are thus just one step away from him. On Sunday evening, the Wall Street Journal reported that in the case of the IRS targeting, it's a lot less than one step (bolds are mine):


Obama's Counsel Was Told of IRS Audit Findings Weeks Ago

The White House's chief lawyer learned weeks ago that an audit of the Internal Revenue Service likely would show that agency employees inappropriately targeted conservative groups, a senior White House official said Sunday.

That disclosure has prompted a debate over whether the president should have been notified at that time.

In the week of April 22, the Office of the White House Counsel and its head, Kathryn Ruemmler, were told by Treasury Department attorneys that an inspector general's report was nearing completion, the White House official said. In that conversation, Ms. Ruemmler learned that "a small number of line IRS employees had improperly scrutinized certain…organizations by using words like 'tea party' and 'patriot,' " the official said.

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.

... 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.

Two days ago, Lanny Davis, who had already intuitively figured out what the Journal reported, called on Ruemmler to resign if she knew about the IRS targeting and failed to inform the President.

Most of the rest of the establishment press is apparently either nervous about the Journal's report, waiting for administration apparatchiks to tell them what to say, or both.

A search on the White House Counsel's last name at the Associated Press's national site at about 1:30 p.m. came up empty. The same search at Google News (past week, sorted by date, with duplicates) returned eight items. The New York Times filed a story 13 hours ago.

So either Obama was told by Ruemmler that the IG's report was close to being done and contained instances of abuse, and will admit it (cough-cough); Obama was told by Ruemmler that the IG's report was close to being done and contained instances of abuse, and won't admit it; or Ruemmler really didn't tell Obama anything.

(By the way, merely telling the President something doesn't constitute any form of "interference"; those making such a claim are insulting our intelligence.)

Regardless of the alternative, it seems likely that Kathryn Ruemmler has a pending date with getting thrown under the bus.

Last week and this morning, I contended that when President Obama admonished graduates at Ohio State on May 5 to "reject these voices" who "warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner," he "might instead have been 'preparing the nation for the recent series of scandals' which 'he and his cohorts already saw coming' in the hope that the American people might discount their authoritarian aspects and implications."

The WSJ report increases that contention's credibility.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.