White House officials discussed IRS communications plans

CNN
Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - 9:30am

White House press secretary Jay Carney acknowledged Tuesday that senior Obama administration officials discussed when and how Lois Lerner, an IRS official, should roll out news that the tax agency had improperly targeted political groups.

At the White house briefing, Carney revealed that Deputy White House Chief of Staff Mark Childress twice discussed communications strategy with Treasury Department officials.

"In the communications I mentioned yesterday, between Treasury officials in the counsel's office, as well as the chief of staff's office and over here - the chief of staff's office and the counsel's office, that there were discussions about the timing of the release of this information and the findings of the report," Carney said.

Carney said officials discussed the possibility that Lerner would reveal the findings of a Treasury inspector general's IRS audit in a speech, while the acting head of the IRS share the information with Congress separately.

But he insisted the White House did not know Lerner planned to address the issue in response to a planted question at an American Bar Association event.

Exactly when the White House knew about the IG audit findings and when it knew it has evolved since the story broke.

Days after media outlets reported on improper behavior at the IRS, Carney said no one in the White House outside of the counsel's office had been aware of wrongdoing.

Then at Monday's briefing, he revealed that White House Counsel Kathy Ruemmler had also informed individuals in the White House chief of staff's office plus other senior staff, and those individuals had held discussions with IRS officials.

Carney revealed on Tuesday that in those conversations, officials at the White House had discussed ways for the IRS to announce the results of the IG's report, including a possible speech by the official at the heart of the scandal, Lerner.

"The only two instances that those discussions encompassed were the discussion about the possibility of a speech by, I believe, Ms. Lerner, which as I understand did not happen, and then the possibility that the acting commissioner would get a question in testimony about these issues and what -- whether or not he would -- what he would say in response to that," Carney said Tuesday.

When asked why all of this information had not been made public during his first briefing after news of the IRS scandal broke, Carney said, "I answered the questions that were asked of me."

"In the rapid development of information about this story and the stories that were being written, there was some confusion about that timeline, and I provided more details about it," Carney said. "I would also say, you know, it is still just a few days since the report was released, and we have been extremely transparent in providing information, the information I provided yesterday, just a few days after this report was released, I think, reflects an effort here to provide information."

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