Press secretary Jay Carney acknowledged Monday that the White House was informed in April that the Treasury Department's Inspector General was investigating the IRS's Cincinnati field office, which is accused of targeting conservative political groups for extra scrutiny.
"My understanding is that the White House Counsel’s Office was alerted in the week of April 22 of this year, only about the fact that the IG was finishing a review about matters involving the office in Cincinnati," Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One. "But that’s all they were informed as a normal sort of heads up. And we have never — we don’t have access to, nor should we, the IG’s report or any draft versions of it."
"I first learned about it from the same news reports that I think most people learned about this. I think it was on Friday," Obama told reporters at a joint press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron.
While Carney insisted that nobody in the White House knew of the specific allegations of improper targeting, the news nevertheless drew fresh questions from Republican critics.
"Who else in the White House knew about the IRS scandal but didn't tell the president?" tweeted Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerEXCLUSIVE: Pro-Hillary group takes 0K in banned donations Ryan: Benghazi report shows administration's failures Clinton can't escape Benghazi responsibility MORE (R-Ohio).
A draft version of the IG report, which is expected to be released later this week, suggests leaders at the IRS were told of the political targeting in 2011 — despite claims last year by the agency's then-head that no such selective scrutiny had occurred.
In his press conference Monday, the president pledged to hold accountable those responsible.
"I can tell you that if you've got the IRS operating in anything less than a neutral and non-partisan way, then that is outrageous, it is contrary to our traditions," Obama said.
On Sunday, House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) told NBC News that “there has to be accountability” both for the IRS employees who targeted conservative groups and those “who were telling lies about it being done.”