House Speaker John A. Boehner says it “really is inconceivable” that President Obama wouldn’t have known about the unfolding IRS scandal before learning about it from reporters, as the White House has claimed.
“It’s pretty inconceivable to me that the president wouldn’t know,” he said on Greta van Susteren’s Fox News program that aired late Wednesday. “I just put 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.”
The Ohio Republican did concede that staff could have attempted to insulate Mr. Obama from the news, but with as many people involved in the investigation as there were, “it really is inconceivable that he wouldn’t have known.”
Lois Lerner, director of tax-exempt organizations for the IRS, tried to stop the Cincinnati field office’s targeting of tea party and other right-leaning groups by directing specialists in 2011 to broaden their criteria so that it did not appear partisan, according to an audit by J. Russell George, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration.
Yet the audit says the behavior resurfaced and had to be fixed once more in May 2012.
Ms. Lerner began witnesses’ testimony during a congressional hearing Wednesday by denying that she acted improperly, and then she invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
“I have not done anything wrong. I have not broken any laws,” she said. “I have not violated any IRS rules or regulations, and I have not provided false information to this or any other congressional committee.”
Her attorney said before the hearing that she would decline to answer questions because the Justice Department announced a potential criminal investigation.
“It looks to me like the IRS has got something to hide here,” Mr. Boehner said. “The White House has changed the story of what happened and what they knew and when they knew it about half a dozen times already. And it’s clear that this appears to be a pervasive problem.”
“There’s a serious problem, and I think it’s our job to get to the bottom of it,” he said.