Lanny Davis: Did WH counsel know IRS was targeting conservatives?

posted at 8:41 am on May 17, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

If it’s true, it would be the first time anyone has linked the issue in any way to the White House.  Lanny Davis writes in The Hill today that he’s heard White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler knew for “several weeks” without informing Barack Obama, and she needs to resign … if his sources are correct.

So who are his sources?  Hmmmm:

I’ve been told today by several reporters that President Obama’s White House counsel, Kathryn Ruemmler, knew for several days — perhaps weeks —that some Internal Revenue Service officials were engaging in political targeting of conservative groups, and that she did not tell the president as soon as she knew even partial reports about the story.

With all due respect to someone who has impeccable legal credentials, if she did have such foreknowledge and didn’t inform the president immediately, I respectfully suggest Ms. Ruemmler is in the wrong job and that she should resign.

The White House counsel to the president, one of the two or three most important positions on the White House staff, must be more than a great lawyer, which Ms. Ruemmler reportedly is. The White House counsel must also have a sensitive political and media ear — in other words, must be a first-rate crisis manager who understands the fundamental need to get the president out in front of the facts, and not be reactive or overly legalistic in determining crisis management strategy.

If Ms. Ruemmler did know about this IRS story and didn’t inform the president immediately, then, respectfully, that must mean she didn’t appreciate fully the mammoth legal and political implications for the U.S. government as well as the American people of a story involving IRS officials abusing power and possibly violating criminal laws.

The story itself would be huge — making a connection earlier than the IG report’s first leak, which came from Lois Lerner herself at the IRS.  Don’t forget that Obama yesterday parsed his response very carefully when it came to knowing about the targeting at the IRS.  He would only say that he first became aware of the IG report last Friday; he left open the question of when he first knew about the targeting.

If Ruemmler knew about it earlier than that, it becomes a much bigger problem for Obama.  First, just as with the IRS chief counsel’s briefing on the matter in August 2011, it’s almost impossible to believe that the lawyers wouldn’t immediately tell their bosses what was going on, unless they had good reason to believe their bosses already knew about it.  If Obama found out a few weeks before the IG report came out, why didn’t he act then to clean house at the IRS?  And it then also prompts the Watergate-ish question: What did the President know, and when did he know it?

For that matter, what did the White House press know, and when did they know it?  Davis is wondering about that, too:

It is also hard to understand why some people in the media who apparently knew about this foreknowledge by the White House counsel and her failure to tell the president missed this story and its significance.

Maybe they didn’t miss the significance.  Perhaps they only decided to use it when the administration’s attack on the Associated Press became widely known, and they realized that this White House isn’t a friend of the media.  That AP scandal has wide-ranging ramifications, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we start seeing a whole lot of revelations over the next few weeks.


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