The White House first learned of a draft report detailing abuses by IRS officials in targeting conservative groups in late April, though the top administration spokesman maintained on Monday that President Barack Obama was not notified of the emerging controversy at that time.
White House press secretary Jay Carney, in a bid to further the administration's public response to revelations that the IRS had singled out conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status for additional scrutiny, disclosed at his daily press briefing that White House counsel Kathy Ruemmler was informed of the report on April 24. She, in turn, told senior White House staff -- including chief of staff Denis McDonough -- of the then-incomplete report, though Carney said those details were never conveyed to Obama.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney is asked about reports that the IRS was targeting political groups nearly 18 months ago.
“To be clear, we knew the subject of the investigation and we knew of the nature of some of the potential findings, but we did not have a copy of the draft report,” said Carney. “We did not know the details, the scope or the motivation surrounding the misconduct, and we did not know who was responsible.”
The new details first offered by Carney come amid growing Republican clamor for more information about who in the White House found out about the IRS investigation, and when. The GOP has sought to cast the administration as either less-than-forthcoming about its knowledge of the investigation, or inept in keeping tabs on such a high-profile investigation.
The press secretary sought to characterize the administration's handling of the information as fairly routine. Carney said that the White House is typically notified of similar inspectors general drafts shortly before publication, and that the details of these reports can often change before publication. Moreover, Carney argued, the abuses at the IRS had ended about a year earlier, meaning that there was no way for the president to act to halt continued misconduct at the IRS.
Obama has said that he did not learn about the IRS controversy until press reports detailing some elements of the inspector general review of the IRS emerged in the press on May 10. Obama has condemned the misconduct, and sought the resignation of the acting IRS commissioner. But his actions haven't slowed Republican criticism of his management of the situation.
Carney said Monday that Obama was not informed by senior staff who were aware of the impending report so as to not compromise the investigation before it had been completed.
"This is not the kind of thing, when you have an ongoing investigation or an ongoing audit, that requires notification to the president because what is important is we wait until that kind of process is completed before we take action," he said.
Furthermore, the press secretary said that no other member of the White House staff sought to intervene in the final stages of the IRS report, because it would have been inappropriate to do so.
This story was originally published on Mon May 20, 2013 3:18 PM EDT