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Inquiry into IRS disclosed to White House in April

Officials say Obama wasn’t told

WASHINGTON — White House officials were first notified April 16 about an investigation into Internal Revenue Service scrutiny of conservative groups and discussed its potential findings with the Treasury Department but never told President Obama, the White House said Monday.

The IRS inspector general informed the White House counsel’s office about the agency’s nearly finished audit along with other reviews nearly a month before its release, the White House said.

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Kathryn Ruemmler, the White House counsel, was personally told on April 24, and she notified White House chief of staff Denis McDonough and other senior aides without informing the president, the White House said.

‘‘She made the decision or the judgment that it was not necessary or appropriate to inform the president of this, and that didn’t happen,’’ said White House press secretary Jay Carney. ‘‘And most importantly, no action was taken by anyone in this building to intervene.’’

He added that the president would not have acted even if he had known.

“Obviously, that would be wholly inappropriate,’’ Carney said.

The details provided Monday by the White House went beyond its previous account and might provide additional fodder for critics pressing to understand what and when the president and his team knew about the IRS misconduct. During a series of television interviews Sunday, Dan Pfeiffer, the president’s senior adviser, made no mention that McDonough or others had been notified and said that the White House had ‘‘no idea what the facts were’’ when Ruemmler was informed.

Carney acknowledged Monday that Ruemmler was told that certain key words like ‘‘tea party’’ and ‘‘patriot’’ were used to target conservative organizations.

‘‘We knew the nature of some of the potential findings,’’ he said, ‘‘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.’’

He said the White House discussed the pending report with officials in the offices of Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew’s chief of staff and general counsel ‘‘to understand the anticipated timing of the release of the report and the potential findings’’ by the inspector general.

Carney said that IRS efforts to single out conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status for special scrutiny had ceased by the time the White House was made aware of the near-complete inspector general’s report, so no action was needed at that time to stop it.

The revised version of White House events came as the Senate Finance Committee sent a six-page letter to Steven Miller, the outgoing acting IRS commissioner, with 41 questions on the matter.

The questions, which are to be answered by May 31, go well beyond the IRS to the question Republicans have been focused on for a week: Who in the Obama administration knew what and when?

The letter was signed by Senators Max Baucus of Montana and Orrin Hatch of Utah, the chairman and ranking Republican, respectively, of the committee.

The Finance Committee plans to convene a hearing on the issue Tuesday that is to feature Douglas Shulman, a Bush administration appointee who led the IRS for much of the targeting effort and has yet to be questioned.

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