Politics
Reporters raise their hands as White House press secretary Jay Carney takes questions during his daily news briefing at the White House in Washington, Tuesday, May, 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) Reporters raise their hands as White House press secretary Jay Carney takes questions during his daily news briefing at the White House in Washington, Tuesday, May, 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)  

Obama’s flack plays defense, plans counter-offense

Neil Munro
White House Correspondent

WASHINGTON — White House spokesman Jay Carney claimed Monday that the Internal Revenue Service targeting of conservative groups ended in May 2012, even though many groups say the harassment continues.

Carney threw out the claim during a contentious May 20 press conference, where he served as a punching bag for reporters unhappy about the administration’s investigations into reporters, and its targeting of conservative citizens’ political groups.

“The misconduct had stopped in May of 2012,” Carney told reporters, while defending the White House’s inaction against the harassment prior to the May 15 release of the report.

Carney didn’t provide any evidence for the claim, which is contradicted by many tea party groups.

Numerous groups, including the Tea Party Patriots, say their activities and fundraising is still being stymied by the IRS refusing to confirm their tax-exempt status.

During the press conference, Carney played defense.

He repeatedly fended off questions about the Justice Department’s investigation of journalists by saying President Barack Obama that can’t interfere in criminal investigations.

“I simply can’t comment. … The appropriate place to address these questions is the Department of Justice,” he said.

He sidelined questions about the Obama’s failure to stop the IRS targeting by saying the president could not intervene in the investigation by the Treasury Department’s inspector general.

“This is not the kind of thing you notify the president … because it is not appropriate,” he said.

Pressed by reporters for more information, Carney directed the media to ask other agencies. “I would direct you to the IG who investigated this matter, and to the Treasury Department to address this matter,” he said.

Although Carney played defense in public, he and other officials are also planning to shift the media narrative away from the IRS, media surveillance and Benghazi coverup scandals.

On Sunday, for example, the White House leaked the news that the president is planning to give a speech Thursday about his use of drones to monitor and kill jihadis in the Middle East.

On Monday, the White House announced the president would travel to Africa June 26.

By visiting Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania, “the President will reinforce the importance that the United States places on our deep and growing ties with countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including through expanding economic growth, investment, and trade; strengthening democratic institutions; and investing in the next generation of African leaders,” said the May 20 announcement.

The president’s agenda reflects his modest role in Washington D.C.

He’s keep his distance from his main legislative priority — passage of an immigration rewrite — while his much-touted call for a tax increase has been repeatedly rejected by the GOP.

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