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White House fights back on IRS scandal

By Paul Richter

Tribune Washington Bureau

LAST UPDATED: 01:33 a.m. HST, May 20, 2013

WASHINGTON » A senior White House aide said Sunday that President Barack Obama learned only from news reports that an Internal Revenue Service office had singled out dozens of conservative groups for questionable scrutiny, while Republicans vowed to investigate any White House involvement in the growing scandal.

White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer made the rounds of the Sunday talk shows to vigorously defend Obama in the IRS case, the attacks that killed four U.S. government employees in Benghazi, Libya, and a federal prosecutor’s obtaining phone records of dozens of reporters and editors at the Associated Press.

Republican critics argue that the cases reflect a president out of touch and a White House out of control during the 2012 election season, charges that have energized the GOP and have put Obama on the defensive barely five months into his second term.

The president and his aides have condemned the IRS misbehavior, denounced the Republican inquiries into the Benghazi attack as blatantly partisan, and defended the investigation of the AP as necessary to determine who leaked classified information.

Pfeiffer insisted that Obama had no advance knowledge that federal investigators had begun investigating the IRS misdeeds until he learned about it from media reports on May 10.

It is a “cardinal rule … for all White Houses is you do not interfere in an independent investigation and you do not do anything to give off the appearance of interference in an independent investigation,” Pfeiffer said on CNN.

“The activity was outrageous and inexcusable, and it was stopped and it needs to be fixed to ensure it never happens again,” Pfeiffer said. He said anyone “who did anything wrong will be held accountable.”

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., asserted on CNN that a written policy had directed the IRS to target conservative groups, and vowed to find out “who wrote the policy and who approved the policy.” But he acknowledged that he had no direct knowledge that a written policy existed.

Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the IRS case reflected a “culture of intimidation” in the administration. But he acknowledged on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that no evidence yet indicates that the White House ordered the behavior or tried to cover it up.

Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., who heads the House committee looking into the IRS misconduct, also said he has no evidence to suggest Obama had advance knowledge of the IRS actions.

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said on ABC’s “This Week” that he believed it would be necessary to appoint a special counsel, independent of administration control, to unearth the facts.

A report released last week by a Treasury Department inspector general said an IRS unit based in Cincinnati had used “inappropriate” and “politically sensitive” criteria to scrutinize conservative groups that had applied for tax-exempt status, delaying action on some applications for more than 18 months.

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niimi wrote:
Why does the White House have to, quote unquote, fight back? There's was a huge issue that wasn't right so they should have fixed it back then. Now due to negligence it has blown up into this huge mess. CEO's lose their job because of stuff like this, for they should have known this happened on their watch. Clinton's presidency was way, way better than Obama's. Clinton was a good leader; Obama has yet to show anything to me.
on May 19,2013 | 02:38PM
NanakuliBoss wrote:
Rand Paul shooting off his yap again! Last week he targeted Hillary, this week the administration. Next week probably Uncle Joe B., but Uncle JB would clean Pauls clock.
on May 19,2013 | 04:03PM
OldDiver wrote:
This will in all likelihood turn out to be mid level managers trying to process tens of thousands of Tea Party filings which occurred after the Citizens United ruling.
on May 19,2013 | 04:36PM
Nevadan wrote:
Obama bailed out Wall Street instead of the middle class. The results are expected: WS is doing great, and the middle class has high unemployment. When he retires, he will have a fat job sitting on some boards on WS, doing nothing, and collecting big fat checks. Just wait ans see.
on May 20,2013 | 03:06AM
serious wrote:
Obama, like B Clinton has it all worked out for retirement. Wait for his last year in the WH and like Clinton will wear AF One out visiting every country in the universe to line up his $250,000 per talk speaking tour.
on May 20,2013 | 05:04AM
serious wrote:
I might add that Hillary did the same thing as Secretary of State--ran up more miles that any other. Now, she's on her speaking tour at $250K a copy.
on May 20,2013 | 06:48AM
pcman wrote:
IRT serious on Obama. Obama's biggest income will be tax free donations for his presidential library, mainly from promises and commitments of all the people and organizations he helped during his job as President.
on May 20,2013 | 07:09AM
akuman808 wrote:
For those naive to think that the republicans have good intentions and Obama bad, you have got to stop eating that red meat they keep feeding you. Let's see if the Citizens United and other tea party non profits actually meet the smell test to be exempt from paying taxes as a 501C.
on May 19,2013 | 02:51PM
palani wrote:
Your opinion regarding who qualifies as a 501(c) organization does not comport with the official policy of the IRS.

The Organizing for America "community organizing" project of the Democratic National Committee was founded and granted 501(c) status after Obama's 2009 inauguration. The group of former campaign operatives seeks to mobilize supporters in favor of Obama's legislative priorities. "Social welfare" is not restricted to those promoting dependency and serfdom.

Perhaps we should look at whether there should be any such exemptions, but the current standard is what it is. No conservative groups were denied that status, but almost all were selectively subjected to illegal scrutiny, delay, and harassment.

on May 19,2013 | 03:25PM
hybrid1 wrote:
Obama had nothing to do with the IRS screwup. ......The major mistake the IRS did was to reinterpret one word in the statute which states "tax exemption is allowed for organizations participating "EXCLUSIVELY" for social purposes" (This does not include political activity)............ Some years ago, the IRS mistakenly and unilaterally changed the word "exclusive" to "primary". This change allowed groups to participate in politics as long as it is less than 50 percent of the time.......... Groups involved in political activities cannot legally receive tax exemption when the original word "exclusive" is used and enforced as stated in the statute. .......... . If there is a scandal, it is that the Internal Revenue Services has been allowing them to do so for far too long.
on May 19,2013 | 03:28PM
Anonymous wrote:
In that case perhaps you'd like to expound upon on how Obama's brother's extremely dubious 'charity' just so happened to set a record for flying through the approval process despite having operated illegally for years, and was somehow granted retroactive tax free status as well? That's a big part of why this whole thing doesn't pass the smell test. If it were just some confusion on how to interpret regulations logic would dictate that problems would be experienced without regard to what political ideology was the perceived beneficiary, but that isn't the case at all.
on May 19,2013 | 07:59PM
kuroiwaj wrote:
Our son mailed a book to me titled "AWOL" by Roth-Douquet & Schaeffer, who are from both sides of the political spectrum that has come to the same conclusion, that the upper and upper middle-class rarely volunteer in todays military. And, because of lack of exposure to the military, there is a loss of leadership and understanding of what makes us Americans. When my son called the other day, he mentioned the scandals with the White House, Treasury, IRS, Justice, HHS, Labor, State, etc all symptoms of the lack of taking responsibility for your AO. In the military, you accept responsibility, not blame the other person. It is also incompetence when being second or third in line and not speaking out. America's morality has lost its glitter and the truth has no meaning. The hearings will expose the irresponsibility and arrogance of our American leaders and also the fear that Americans will not speak out. It's a very sad situation in America.
on May 19,2013 | 03:22PM
meat wrote:
The sick and disturbing part about it, is that the IRS will be the enforcing body of OBAMACARE. People should be concerned.
on May 19,2013 | 03:23PM
Pacej001 wrote:
Pfeiffer's performance, which was arrogant, defensive and partisan, on the Sunday talk shows, just added further embarrassment to the Obama administrations conduct regarding Benghazi, the IRS, and the AP phone records scandals.
on May 19,2013 | 04:07PM
inverse wrote:
Obama is most vulnerable on Benghazi gate. The attack on murdered US Libyan ambassador STevens and 3 other Americans lasted about 8 hours and military experts identified that US Seal team or Delta force could have reached the US ambassador in 4 hours. My understanding is ONLY the President of the US can authorize such a rescue mission with these military assets and there was NO rescue mission. That night the US LIbyan emabassy was attacked and 4 Americans murdered, Obama flew out, I think, to California for a political fundraiser. The IRS and AP flap is minor compared to what happened in Benghazi and the way information is slowly coming out, don't think Obama will ever recover from it. H Clinton, Biden and Kerry will be tied to Benghazi gate by the Republicans in the next presidential and congressional elections. I is looking like politics and winning an election was more important than saving American lives in Libya and most Americans cannot accept this. Yes, Bush2, Cheney and Rumfield used political reasons to invade Iraq for a 2nd time and that was completely wrong that cost American lives and billions/trillions in lost assets. However, two wrongs do not make a right. The balance of politics have wildly swung from extreme Repubs with Bush2 to extreme Demo's with Obama for two terms. For the sake of US' future, need to go back the other way with a MODERATE Repub who has the ability to put politics aside and lead the nation based on whats best for the country.
on May 19,2013 | 06:19PM
pcman wrote:
IRT inverse on Benghazi. I agree that this is the most egregious breach of a President's responsibility to ensure the security of government employees, military forces, students, business people, civilian travelers, academics, and others overseas since President Carter. If President Obama could take control of special forces to kill bin Laden, he could have taken control to ensure the rescue of the Americans at Benghazi. His actions and excuses are both disgraceful and shameful as the Commander-in-Chief of the US Armed Forces. Although I disagreed with many things that President Bush did, I disagree that it was his fault to attack Iraq for the purpose of regime change and establishment of democracy because these were President Clinton's initiatives that were approved by Congress. He made the mistake of acting on the erroneous intelligence estimate of WMD by the CIA. You can't compare making a mistake to lying or not acting to rescue Americans in distress.
on May 20,2013 | 08:29AM
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