WASHINGTON (AP) - A top White House adviser insisted Sunday that President Barack Obama learned the Internal Revenue Service had targeted tea party groups only "when it came out in the news" while Republicans continued to press the administration for more answers.
Trying to move past a challenging week that put the White House on the defensive, senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer was scheduled to appear on five Sunday news shows to repeat the administration's position that no senior officials were involved in the decision to give tea party groups extra scrutiny. Pfeiffer's appearances were unlike to quiet GOP critics, who have seized on the revelations as proof that Obama used the IRS to go after his political enemies.
"The deputy secretary of the treasury was made aware of just the fact that the investigation was beginning last year," Pfeiffer said. "But no one in the White House was aware."
Meanwhile, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., suggested there was a written policy to target conservative groups opposing the president, but when pressed could not provide details.
"I haven't seen a policy statement, but I think we need to see that," Paul said. "And when that comes forward, we need to know who wrote the policy and who approved the policy."
Regardless of when the president first learned of the investigations, Pfeiffer said the president wanted to ensure such activities were not repeated.
A Treasury Department inspector's report said this week that conservative and small-government tea party groups that were critical of Obama received extra scrutiny.
IRS agents did not flag similar progressive or liberal groups, according to the watchdog.
The new acting IRS commissioner is in the midst of a 30-day top-to-bottom review while Republicans continue to demand answers of Obama and his allies in government.