Katie LaPotin and Francesca Chambers, Red Alert Politics, May 20, 2013
For the second week in a row, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was pummeled during his daily press briefing Monday by White House reporters for the IRS’ admission that it improperly targeted conservative organizations.
Carney spent the majority of his hour plus briefing fielding questions about the IRS scandal and a fourth scandal involving a Department of Justice investigation into of Fox News Reporter James Rosen – all of which he refused to answer, saying he could not comment on an “ongoing criminal investigation.” Instead, the White House Press Secretary directed the journalists to the DOJ or referred them back to the President’s previous statements, which he said were ”very clear.”
“He was outraged by the behavior; he thought the conduct was inappropriate, that people need to be held responsible — and that process has begun — and we need to make sure that nothing like this can happen again,” Carney said of the President’s reaction to the IRS’ malpractice. “Nobody has been more outraged by the reported conduct here than the President of the United States.”
He did reiterate, however, that neither he nor the President were made aware of the IRS Inspector General’s report detailing the singling out of conservative groups with words like “Tea Party” and “patriot” in their filings, before it was first reported by the press on Friday May 10th.
“To be clear, we knew the subject of the investigation and we knew of the nature of some of the potential findings, but we did not have a copy of the draft report,” Carney said. “We did not know the details, the scope or the motivation surrounding the misconduct, and we did not know who was responsible.”
According to Carney, White House Council Kathy Ruemmler learned of the report on April 24 and shared it with several senior members of the administration, including Obama’s Chief of Staff, Denis McDonough. Ruemmler didn’t feel, however, that the controversy was significant enough to inform Obama before the final report was published.
Carney claimed during his briefing that the President isn’t typically informed of Inspector Generals’ drafts until shortly before they become final and are published.
“This is not the kind of thing, when you have an ongoing investigation or an ongoing audit, that requires notification to the President because what is important is we wait until that kind of process is completed before we take action,” he said.
Carney also took the opportunity to remind the press how much the president values the First Amendment while dodging questions about Fox News reporter James Rosen. However he cautioned his audience that the President must “balance” his support for the Constitutionally guaranteed right of freedom of the press with national security concerns.
“We have the First Amendment. We have a great tradition of press freedom here,” Carney said. “The President supports that tradition, and he is a defender of the rights contained within the First Amendment. He is a defender of the right of the press to pursue investigative journalism.
“He is also, as I’ve said, as President and as a citizen, insistent upon the need to make sure that classified leaks that can endanger our national security and endanger the lives of American men and women overseas be taken seriously. And that is a balance that he seeks, and it is a balance reflected in the legislation that he has supported and supports today,” Carney said referring to a journalist shield law the administration is pushing.
The White House Press Secretary was unable to define what sort of a “balance” the President hoped to achieve, however, sating he could only comment “broadly on these issues” because of the “ongoing criminal investigation.”