Earlier this morning I questioned the new spin out of the White House that Kathryn Ruemmler would have informed Barack Obama’s chief of staff Denis McDonough and a number of other senior staffers in Obama’s inner circle of the IRS abuse and corruption about to blow up in an IG report, and somehow that news never got to the President himself. House Speaker John Boehner also is having trouble swallowing that explanation. In an interview last night with Greta van Susteren, Boehner called it “inconceivable” that so many people knew about the practice and the probe, and yet Obama remained entirely ignorant of it until watching the news:
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Wednesday said he believed it was “inconceivable” that President Obama did not learn sooner about the Internal Revenue Service’s political targeting of Tea Party groups.
“It’s pretty inconceivable to me that the president wouldn’t know,” Boehner told Fox News’s Greta Van Susteren. “I’m just putting myself in his shoes. I deal with my senior staff every day. And if the White House had known about this, which now it appears they’ve known about it for about a year, it’s hard to imagine it wouldn’t have come up in some conversation.” …
Boehner said top officials may have “attempted to insulate the president from this news.”
“But with as many people that were involved in the audit, the number of people involved in the investigation, somebody — and the number of people in the White House that knew — it really is inconceivable that he wouldn’t have known about it,” he added.
Here’s another question about the “insulation” theory — why use it at all? Why not let Obama get ahead of the curve by announcing that his administration had uncovered the abuse, and that Obama personally would clean house to put a stop to it? After all, as testimony yesterday from Douglas Schulman showed, IRS executives were independently aware of the abuse separately from the IG investigation, as far back as 2011. Obama could have called Schulman and Steve Miller on the carpet and twisted some arms to get public statements of culpability and taken action against other IRS officials, or at least tried to do so.
John Fund argues that the IRS abuse might have been a deliberate voter-suppression tactic, which would have made that an awkward response:
But it now turns out there may have suppression of the vote after all. “It looks like a lot of tea-party groups were less active or never got off the ground because of the IRS actions,” Wisconsin governor Scott Walker told me. “Sure seems like people were discouraged by it.”
Indeed, several conservative groups I talked with said they were directly impacted by having their non-profit status delayed by either IRS inaction or burdensome and intrusive questioning. At least two donors told me they didn’t contribute to True the Vote, a group formed to combat voter fraud, because after three years of waiting the group still didn’t have its status granted at the time of the 2012 election. (While many of the targeted tea-party groups were seeking to become 501(c)(4)s, donations to which are not tax-deductible, True the Vote sought to become a 501(c)(3).) This week, True the Vote sued the IRS in federal court, asking a judge to enjoin the agency from targeting anyone in the future. …
It won’t be easy to discover whether the “voter suppression” engaged in by the IRS was malicious and political. But we have to make every effort to find out before the American people start losing confidence in the integrity of our elections.
Perhaps, although it will take more evidence to make that case. What we know now is that the White House’s rapidly-changing explanations of who knew what and when don’t make much sense, and that the more we press the more changes we keep hearing. That tells us something about the honesty of the administration, and that might tell us about the motives, too.