A top White House adviser insisted Sunday that President Barack Obama learned the Internal Revenue Service had targeted tea-party groups only “when it came out in the news,” while Republicans continued to press the administration for more answers.
Trying to move past a challenging week that put the White House on the defensive, senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer appeared on five Sunday news shows to repeat the administration’s position that no senior officials were involved in the decision to give tea-party groups extra scrutiny. Pfeiffer’s appearances were unlikely to quiet GOP critics, who have seized on the revelations as proof that Obama used the IRS to go after his political enemies.
“The deputy secretary of the treasury was made aware of just the fact that the investigation was beginning last year,” Pfeiffer said. “But no one in the White House was aware.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., suggested there was a written policy to target conservative groups opposing the president, but when pressed, could not provide details.
“I haven’t seen a policy statement, but I think we need to see that,” Paul said. “And when that comes forward, we need to know who wrote the policy and who approved the policy.”
Regardless of when the president first learned of the investigations, Pfeiffer said the president wanted to ensure such activities were not repeated.
“The activity was outrageous and inexcusable, and it was stopped and it needs to be fixed to ensure it never happens again,” Pfeiffer said.
Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., said the IRS had stepped so far over its mandate that it asked book groups for reading lists and church groups about their prayers before granting them tax-exempt standing. It’s government over-reach, he said, and a reason why Republicans need to have their own investigation into the agency.