An official at the center of the Internal Revenue Service’s political targeting scandal allegedly met with President Barack Obama two days before the agency drafted new guidelines for scrutinizing groups applying for tax-exempt status, according to a recent report from a conservative news site.
IRS chief counsel William Wilkins was implicated by retiring IRS agent Carter Hull in recent House Oversight testimony as being one of the supervisors involved in the improper handling of applications from conservative groups.
Wilkins, according to the report and the White House visitor’s log, met with the president in the Roosevelt Room of the White House at around 3:54 in the afternoon on April 23, 2012. He didn't leave until a little after 11 p.m., according to visitor records.
“Wilkins’ meeting with Obama on April 23 was attended by 13 people,” author Patrick Howley notes.
“On April 25, 2012, Wilkins sent Hull and fellow Washington-based IRS official Lois Lerner ‘additional comments on the draft guidance’ for approving or denying tea party tax-exempt applications,” Howley adds, citing the IRS’ inspector general’s report.
Now before we go any further with this story, it's worth mentioning that the White House visitor logs (which Howley's report is based on) are notoriously unreliable.
Indeed, as noted earlier on TheBlaze, the White House Visitor Records tool leaves a lot to be desired.
“The log may include some scheduled visits that did not take place and exclude visits by members of Congress, top officials and others who are not required to sign in at security gates,” the Washington Post’s database warns.
The Atlantic adds [emphasis added]:
The real problem with combing through the White House visitor logs is that they were a system designed for Secret Service clearance and White House security, not as comprehensive means of documenting every visitor to the White House, high to low. They miss the top end and some of the social end of people visiting the White House — people who are cleared through separate processes designed to protect presidential security other than getting swiped in at the front gate for an appointment.
In short, and to repeat our earlier point, the White House Visitor Records tool is not exactly reliable (The Center for Public Integrity has a very lengthy take on this).
Still, there may be some legs to this Wilkins story.
"Obama had quite a full schedule on that afternoon and evening. Several names, including that of Wilkins, appear on the visitor log at roughly the same time with 'POTUS' as the visitee," writes Hot Air's Ed Morrissey.
"They include officials in HUD, a financial officer from the Air Force, the VA, and the USDA. Most of those left earlier than Wilkins did, according to their exit info (some of which is missing), suggesting a series of meetings rather than one single conference," he adds.
The Hot Air report continues:
A couple of them stayed late, though. Denise O’Donnell, who works at the Department of Justice, appears to have left the White House only 22 minutes before Wilkins. The combination is interesting, although not necessarily meaningful. A better question might be why Wilkins was meeting with Obama at all. Any communication on IRS matters should route through the executive rather than the office of chief counsel, one would presume.
A chief counsel’s job would have been to brief Douglas Schulman, at that time preparing to hit escape velocity, or the chief counsel for Treasury.
Unless...there’s another William Wilkins who can get up to seven hours of face time with the President. The IRS chief counsel seems to fit the bill most closely, though.
Shortly after Wilkins' and Schulman's alleged visits, the IRS' targeting criteria was changed.
Is this a smoking gun? Probably not. But it certainly raises some interesting questions -- questions that Lois Lerner (the IRS's director of tax-exempt organizations who earlier this year plead her Fifth Amendment right to silence) may be able to answer. After all, she acted as the go-between on this project, according to Hull.
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Featured image Getty Images. This post has been updated.