WASHINGTON — White House officials were first notified April 16 about an investigation into Internal Revenue Service scrutiny of conservative groups and discussed its potential findings with the Treasury Department but never told President Barack Obama, the White House said Monday.
The IRS inspector general informed the White House counsel's office about the agency's nearly finished audit, along with other reviews, nearly a month before its release, the White House said. Kathryn Ruemmler, the White House counsel, was personally told on April 24, and she notified White House chief of staff Denis McDonough and other senior aides without informing the president, the White House said.
"She made the decision or the judgment that it was not necessary or appropriate to inform the president of this, and that didn't happen," said White House press secretary Jay Carney. "And most importantly, no action was taken by anyone in this building to intervene."
He added that the president would not have acted even if he had known.
"Obviously, that would be wholly inappropriate," Carney said.
The details provided by the White House on Monday went beyond its previous account and might provide additional fodder for critics pressing to understand what and when the president knew about the IRS misconduct. During a series of television interviews Sunday, Dan Pfeiffer, the president's senior adviser, did not mention that McDonough or others had been notified and said that the White House had "no idea what the facts were" when Ruemmler was informed.
Carney on Monday acknowledged that she was in fact told that key words such as "tea party" and "patriot" were used to target conservative organizations.
"We knew the nature of some of the potential findings," he said, "but we did not have a copy of the draft report, we did not know the details, the scope or the motivation surrounding the misconduct, and we did not know who was responsible."
The revised version of White House events came as the Senate Finance Committee sent a letter to Steven Miller, the outgoing acting IRS commissioner, with 41 questions. The questions, which are to be answered by May 31, go well beyond the IRS to questions about who in the Obama administration knew what and when.