Politico has a good story summarizing the White House’s changing story regarding the IRS scandal to date. I want to focus on just one point, which I hadn’t seen before:
Friday, May 10: . . . Outside the White House, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said that he’d first learned of the details of the investigation from news reports. . .
Friday, May 17: Lew, during an interview with Bloomberg News, revealed he’d actually first learned of the inspector general’s investigation in March, adding that he hadn’t been aware of the details of the report until May 10.
Lew’s defenders will doubtless say he was truthful; learning of an investigation isn’t the same as knowing the details. In a narrow sense that may be so, although (a) the same people are invariably much less charitable when it comes to Republicans, and (b) we have only his word for it in any case.
Nevertheless, Lew’s statement seems misleading. He knew that the investigation involved scrutinization of conservative groups. With or without details, he knew the takeaway. But he did nothing, and told no one.
But suppose we give him a pass; this only emphasizes the key point. We are in territory where every statement made by any official must be scrutinized for loopholes (as well as outright lies). When President Obama says “I certainly did not know anything about the IG report,” observe that he is not saying that he knew nothing about the investigation, or the underlying misconduct.