WASHINGTON (AP) — A top White House adviser insisted 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 answers on Sunday.
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."
Regardless of when the president first learned of the investigations, the longtime Obama confidante said the president wanted to ensure such activities were not repeated.
"The activity was outrageous and inexcusable, and it was stopped and it needs to be fixed to ensure it never happens again," Pfeiffer said.
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 report concluded that a regional IRS office in Ohio improperly singled out tea party and other conservative groups for more than 18 months and took no action on many of their applications for tax-exempt status for long periods of time — hindering their fundraising for the 2010 and 2012 elections.
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.
That's not sufficient, said Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio.
"I think a special counsel is going to wind up being necessary," he added said.
That move is not needed, said Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J.
"I don't see the point," he said of a special counsel to investigate the scandal.
Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., said the IRS had stepped so far over its mandate that it asked book groups for reading lists and church groups about their prayers before granting them tax-exempt standing. It's government over-reach, he said, and a reason why Republicans need to have their own investigation into the agency.
"This is about trust," Price said.
But he stopped short of calling for a special counsel.
Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., said Republicans were using the incidents to embarrass the president.
"There is no Republican agenda other than to stop the president of the United States," he said.
Pfeiffer was appearing Sunday on ABC's "This Week," NBC's "Meet the Press," CBS' "Face the Nation," CNN's "State of the Union" and "Fox News Sunday." Portman, Menendez, Price and Rangel were on ABC.
WASHINGTON (AP) — A senior White House adviser insists President Barack Obama learned the Internal Revenue Service had been targeting tea party groups "when it came out in the news."
Speaking Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union," Dan Pfeiffer says the White House counsel's office learned of the IRS inspector general's investigation in late April, but Obama wasn't informed of the probe.
Pfeiffer says "the cardinal rule" for all administrations is to avoid giving off the appearance of interference in an independent investigation.
He says --quote -- "the political sensitivity is exactly why no one got involved."
Pfeiffer says the new acting IRS commissioner will do a 30-day top-down review to examine everything that happened. Pfeiffer says the new commissioner will make sure that anyone who did anything wrong is held accountable.
BERLIN (Reuters) - German Economy Minister Philipp Roesler said the European Commission made a "grave mistake" by agreeing to impose punitive import duties on solar panels from China and urged the Commission to work to prevent the eruption of a trade conflict.
"It's a grave mistake," Roesler told Welt am Sonntag newspaper on Sunday.
He said China already warned the duties on solar panels would harm bilateral trade. "That shows: punitive import duties are the wrong instrument."
Roesler told the Sunday newspaper that the German government has repeatedly warned of the consequences of punitive import duties against China's solar industry. Germany is one of the world's leading export nations.
"The German industry is very concerned and quite rightly," Roesler said. "I expect the Commission to do everything to prevent a trade conflict. The Commission has to seek a resolution with negotiations and dialogue instead of threats."
Germany's BDI industry association warned at the weekend about negative consequences for Germany's export-oriented industry of the Commission's move to impose average import duties of 47 percent on solar panels from China.
(Reporting by Ralf Bode and Soeren Amelang; Writing by Erik Kirschbaum; Editing by Thomas Krumenacker and Maria Sheahan)