At a minimum, according to some officials who served in past administrations, someone, presumably the chief of staff, would give the president a quiet heads-up about something as charged as political malfeasance at the IRS. Not because the president could or should do anything to interfere with the investigation, but as a warning to be prepared. And to be able to answer the question of what the president knew and when.
Why would it be inappropriate for the president to know what his chief of staff, his counsel and others on his senior staff knew and were talking about with others in the government? Would telling him require him to do something inappropriate? Would he be open to criticism if he knew and stood idly by? Perhaps, but if his top advisers knew weren’t inclined to act inappropriately, why would the president?
Indeed, other facts that have come out make it clear that no one at Treasury was in any doubt about the explosive implications of the case; from yesterday's Washington Post:
The Treasury Department was informed on three separate occasions that the Internal Revenue Service planned to disclose that it targeted conservative groups for scrutiny, and on one occasion, Treasury expressed concern about the form of the disclosure, a Treasury official said on Monday night. . . .
Also in late April, the IRS told Treasury that acting commissioner Steven Miller, whose resignation was announced last week, would apologize for the actions when asked in a forthcoming congressional testimony. Treasury did not offer a view of what IRS should do, the official said.
In both of these cases, Treasury discussed the potential disclosures with the White House . . ..
And finally, Treasury was told ahead of time that Lerner would be asked a question about whether the IRS was screening conservative groups at an American Bar Association conference on May 10.
The fact that these discussions were ongoing -- and shared with the White House -- suggests that everyone knew the political dangers they posed, including those in The White House . . . which makes the supposed decision to withhold information from the President even more puzzling, if true.
What's more, the fact that Treasury was so involved in discussions about the roll out signals that officials there, too, were keenly aware of the politics. One interesting question: Was Neal Wolin the person who "discussed potential disclosures with the White Houe"? He, of course, is the second-in-command at Treasury -- who was informed of the targeting investigation before the election. If he was discussing the best means of disclosure of the investigation's results with the White House after the election, wouldn't he have disclosed the investigation's existence with the White House before the election, when it posed even more political danger?
Through its (revised) narrative, the White House still clings to the idea that the President wasn't informed because no one found the information important enough for him to know. But their activities suggest otherwise. There was plenty of discusson of how to manage the IRS debacle at The White House for certain after the election . . . now, what about before?