The Campaign Spot

Lew: IRS Investigation Was on Inspector General Web Site in Fall 2012

Well.

AL HUNT, HOST, BLOOMBERG NEWS: We’re going to get to larger economic questions in a little bit, but first the IRS, which reports to Treasury. When were you first notified that IRS agents were targeting conservative groups like the Tea Party?

JACK LEW, TREASURY SECRETARY, U.S. GOVERNMENT: Al, I learned the substance of this report last Friday when it became a matter of public knowledge. Before that, in mid March, I had had a conversation, just a getting-to-know-you conversation, with the inspector general right after I started, and he went through a number of items that were matters they were working on. And the topic of a project on the 501c3 issue was one of the things he briefed me was ongoing.

I didn’t know any of the details of it until last Friday. When I learned about it — from the moment I learned about it, I was outraged. The Secretary of the Treasury, as a citizen, it is a matter of the highest priority that the IRS be beyond suspicion in terms of its (inaudible).

HUNT: Did Tim Geithner or Neal Wolin or the general counsel know about it before him?

LEW: I think that there was — the heads-up that I got was something that was a matter of public knowledge. It was posted on the IG’s website in the Fall of 2012. I believe that other is typically the practice that an inspector general notify the agencies when matters are opened. I was not aware of any details. My deputy was not aware of any details until it became a matter of public knowledge.

J. Russell George, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration, today told members of the House Ways and Means Committee that he informed the Treasury’s general counsel of his audit on June 4, and deputy Treasury secretary Neal Wolin “shortly thereafter.”

While the inspector general’s report was still ongoing, anyone at the highest level of the Treasury Department could see that the IG had been investigating the topic for several months. And yet no one in the entire Treasury Department felt the president should be notified?

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