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The IRS Scandal Reaches the President

First, the Administration said there was no IRS mistreatment of Tea Party groups. Second, the Administration said there was, but it was the Cincinnati office’s fault, not the IRS in Washington. Third, it became clear it was the fault of the IRS in Washington. Fourth, it became clear that it was the fault of the IRS Chief Counsel’s office in Washington. Now, we discover that the IRS Chief Counsel met with President Obama at a crucial time. An anonymous federal lawyer wrote this to TaxProf: (my boldface)

As someone who works as an attorney at an agency general counsel’s office, I think people are missing the significance of Obama meeting with the IRS chief counsel in the White House. Understand, agency general counsels are not authorized to give legal advice to the President. They advise their agency heads. Only the AG and by delegation the Office of Legal Counsel to the President is authorized to give legal advice to the President. In my seven years of working at a General Counsel’s office, I have never once heard of our general counsel meeting with the President. OLC would go crazy if he did. I have worked on a couple of legal opinions that did go to the White House. And each time they were staffed through OLC. Nothing went to the President that wasn’t signed off on by OLC and delivered to him by OLC.

So I can’t for the life of me come up with any kind of innocent explanation for why Obama would have met with the Chief Counsel of the IRS. That meeting shouldn’t ever happen, and especially not without the Commissioner of the IRS being there. Presidents just don’t go to agency chief counsels with legal questions. Presidents don’t go to anyone with legal questions. Their staff does. The idea that the President would sit down with some random agency chief counsel and discuss some pressing legal issue is just bizarre to anyone who has worked in the legal field at that level. I am not sure the reporters covering this story understand how legal advice is actually delivered to the President and just how out of the ordinary that meeting was.

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  1. July 26th, 2013 at 00:45 | #1

    At Taxprof, there are comments which note that this meeting looks like it was just an occasion for miscellaneous appointees to have their pictures taken with the President. I note that it might also have been an occasion for the President to meet in person people he was thinking of appointing to more important jobs. The White House hasn’t made these defenses, tho, which is odd, as is, of course, the amazing coincidence in dates. Still, the White House is sloppy enough or confident enough that maybe that’s the reason it hasn’t come forward with any explanation for the meeting.

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