During a sometimes testy session with reporters, White House spokesman Jay Carney on Monday disclosed that some top White House officials were made aware of the Internal Revenue Service's scrutiny of conservative political groups as early as April.
According to Carney, general counsel Kathryn Ruemmler learned of the pending report from the Treasury Department's inspector on April 24, and informed other officials, including President Obama's chief of staff, Denis McDonough.
Carney also reiterated his previous claim that Obama was unaware of the report or any potential charges of misconduct until the news broke on May 10. The president was kept in the dark in part, Carney said, because the report was incomplete and subject to changes before being made public.
"So to be clear, we knew the subject of the investigation and we knew the nature of some of the potential findings, but we did not have a copy of the draft report, we did not know the details, the scope or the motivation surrounding the misconduct, and we did not know who was responsible," Carney said. "Most importantly, the report was not final and still very much subject to change.”
Reporters also grilled Carney on a Sunday Washington Post report that in 2010 the Justice Department in a leak investigation had tracked the movements in and out of the State Department of Fox News reporter James Rosen and seized two days' worth of his personal emails.
Insisting that he cannot comment on an ongoing criminal investigation, Carney delivered almost word for word the response he gave last week with regard to the DOJ's secretly obtaining Associated Press reporters' and editors' phone records.
The president is a "strong defender of the First Amendment" and a firm believer in the "free flow of information," but "as a citizen commander in chief insistent that we protect our secrets, that we protect classified information, and … that we take very seriously the leaks of classified information because leaks can endanger the lives of men and women in uniform and other Americans serving overseas for our country."
When one reporter asked Carney how he would have responded during his tenure as bureau chief for Time magazine if the Justice Department had threatened one of his reporters with jail time, he refused to "extrapolate hypothetically" about what might have happened, but applauded a "great effort" to extrapolate an answer from him.
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(Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)