Politics
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney listens to a question during a press briefing at the White House February 28, 2013 in Washington, DC. AFP (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI / AFP / Getty Images) White House Press Secretary Jay Carney listens to a question during a press briefing at the White House February 28, 2013 in Washington, DC. AFP (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI / AFP / Getty Images)  

White House spokesman faces three scandals at once

Neil Munro
White House Correspondent

An unusually energetic White House press corps today pressed White House spokesman Jay Carney for information about the multiple scandals enveloping the president’s administration.

The investigation of the IRS hasn’t been released, so President Obama can’t comment on press reports of IRS targeting, Carney said repeatedly.

The Justice Department’s subpoena of telephone calls by Associated Press reporters is a criminal matter, so any presidential comment about criminal investigations would be “inappropriate,” he said numerous times.

“We cannot and should not prejudge the outcome of an investigation,” he said, adding that “the IRS should not be politicized.”

Carney again dismissed the growing scandal over the White House’s rewrite of the CIA’s “talking points” that were drafted after the 2012 jihadi attack on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi.

He accused the GOP of misleading reporters about an email sent by Ben Rhodes, then the deputy national security adviser for strategic communications. (RELATED: Obama complains about GOP investigation into Benghazi cover-up)

Administration critics “decided to fabricate portions of an email. … I’m not surprised by it,” he said.

The GOP criticism of the administration’s behavior during the Benghazi crisis is a “political sideshow … [and] an effort to politicize a tragedy,” he said.

Obama used similar language on Monday, saying “the whole issue of talking points, frankly throughout this process, has been a sideshow.”

Throughout the 50-minute press conference, reporters aggressively but fruitlessly pressed Carney for more information.

Carney confidently declared that no White House officials — except the White House’s lawyers office — knew of the IRS targeting prior to the recent reports about the IRS investigation. But later he backed away, saying “I have no reason to believe” anyone at the White House knew about the targeting.

“I’m am not aware of anyone knowing about it. … I am certainly not aware of and confident that no one here was involved in it,” he said.

One reporter even asked if Obama’s criticism of campaign donations may have spurred IRS officials to investigate the tea party groups.

“That’s a preposterous assertion. … You heard from the president [on Monday], that if this turns out to be true, he would be outraged,” Carney replied.

Throughout the event, Carney insisted that White House officials unfazed by the media uproar and are hard at work on the president’s agenda.

“Absolutely not, we are focused on the things we can do to help the middle-class … to help our kids to get educated, to work with Congress to achieve what will hopefully be a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill … to help the economy grow, to help it create more jobs,” he said.

Carney didn’t provide any comments on the revelation that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is asking health-sector companies to fund Obamacare programs that were denied funding by the Congress.

Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander used a May 14 Washington Post interview to attack the fundraiser as illegal, and similar to the 1986 scandal about President Ronald Reagan’s use of private funds to buy weapons for anti-Communist guerrillas in Nicaragua.

“This is arguably an even bigger issue because, in Iran-Contra, you had $30 million that was spent by Oliver North through private organizations for a purpose Congress refused to authorize, in support of the rebels,” Alexander said.

“Here, you’re wanting to spend millions more in support of private organizations to do something that Congress has refused.”

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