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‘Inconceivable’ Obama didn’t know about IRS sooner, says Boehner

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Wednesday said he believed it was “inconceivable” that President Obama did not learn sooner about the Internal Revenue Service’s political targeting of Tea Party groups.

“It’s pretty inconceivable to me that the president wouldn’t know,” Boehner told Fox News’s Greta Van Susteren. “I'm just putting 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.”

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Boehner’s comments come as lawmakers press the IRS and White House for answers on when senior officials first learned about the heightened scrutiny applied to conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.

The White House earlier this week acknowledged that the president’s top lawyer learned about an inspector general report detailing the abusive practices weeks before it became public but decided not to tell Obama. The president learned about the IRS scandal on May 10, along with the public.

Boehner said top officials may have “attempted to insulate the president from this news.” 

“But with as many people that were involved in the audit, the number of people involved in the investigation, somebody — and the number of people in the White House that knew — it really is inconceivable that he wouldn't have known about it,” he added. 

The speaker also said that IRS tax official Lois Lerner’s appearance before the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday suggested “the IRS has got something to hide.”

Lerner denied any wrongdoing and invoked the Fifth Amendment before the panel to avoid answering further questions. 

Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), though, has said he will consider options to bring Lerner back before the committee and possibly compel her testimony.

Boehner also declined to back calls from some lawmakers for a special prosecutor to probe the matter.

“I think the Department of Justice can do this, but I think Congress has its job to provide oversight, not only of the IRS, but to make sure the investigation is thorough and complete,” the Speaker said.

Boehner said the IRS scandal as well as controversies over the handling of the Benghazi, Libya, attacks and the Justice Department’s seizure of reporters’ phone records revealed the administration’s “arrogance of power.”

“When you look at going after the media and how the Justice Department has handled this, they better have some big answers for the Congress and for the American people,” he said.