IRS General Counsel William J. Wilkins claims that he knew nothing about the IRS targeting. His claims don't pass the smell test.
It's impossible to know until later, but this may end up having been one of the most significant weeks in the course of the IRS scandal. It's the week that everyone finally realizes there's a link -- an important link -- between the agency's targeting of conservatives and an Obama administration political appointee, William J. Wilkins.
In truth, with apologies to Peggy Noonan, it isn't that we now know that the scandal reached into the office of the general counsel. We knew that before. As I pointed out back on May 16, on page 36 of the IG report on the targeting, there is the following entry for August 4, 2011:
The IRS has claimed that Wilkins didn't attend that meeting, issuing the following statement back on May 16:
Rulings and Agreements office personnel held a meeting with Chief Counsel so that everyone would have the latest information on the issue [of developing new criteria for identifying which applications to send to specialists for more scrutiny].
Of course, for one thing, keep in mind that the IRS also claimed that the whole targeting scandal was the result of actions by a few "rogue agents" in Cincinnati. What's more, if the statement is parsed carefully, what's interesting is what's left out. The statement claims (1) Wilkins wasn't at the August 4 meeting; and (2) he didn't learn about "specific groups" being singled out by name until early in 2013 (conveniently after the election, mind you!).
IRS Chief Counsel William Wilkins did not participate in any Aug. 4, 2011 meeting relating to tax-exempt applications. An August 4, 2011 discussion of 501(c)(4) criteria to be used in case reviews involved staff attorneys several layers below Wilkins. The IRS Office of Chief Counsel has approximately 1600 attorneys. Wilkins is not involved in the 501(c)(4) application process. He did not discuss 501(c)(4) applications with the Treasury General Counsel. Wilkins did not learn about specific groups being singled out by name until earlier this year.