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Axelrod: ‘Impossible’ for Obama to have known about IRS targeting

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“If you look at the Inspector General’s report, apparently some folks down in the bureaucracy, and you know we have a large government, took it upon themselves to shorthand these applications for tax exempt status in a way that was, as I said, idiotic, and also dangerous because of the political implications,” Axelrod said on MSNBC’s "Morning Joe."

“Part of being president is there’s so much underneath you because the government is so vast,” he added. “You go through these [controversies] all because of this stuff that is impossible to know if you’re the president or working in the White House, and yet you’re responsible for it and it’s a difficult situation.”

In a statement on Tuesday night, Obama said he reviewed the Treasury Department’s inspector general report, which found that IRS staffers used “inappropriate criteria” to target conservative groups, and called the findings “intolerable and inexcusable.”

White House spokesman Jay Carney has said that nobody in the White House knew about or influenced the IRS’s policy, and that the president found out about the transgression through the news media at the same time as the public.

The Justice Department on Tuesday opened a criminal investigation into the matter.

Axelrod on Tuesday described those responsible as "civil servants deep within the bowels of the IRS."