Obama's Point Man: 'The Law Is Irrelevant'

Susan Jones | May 20, 2013 | 7:27am EDT
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White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer appears on CBS's "Face the Nation" in Washington on May 19, 2013. (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - Introduced on ABC's "This Week" as "the strategist at the center of White House damage control," Dan Pfeiffer may have done additional damage in his appearance on the five Sunday talk shows.

Pfeiffer, struggling to address the IRS targeting of conservative groups, at one point told ABC's George Stephanopoulos, "The law is irrelevant."

Stephanopoulos asked Pfeiffer if President Obama believes it was illegal for IRS employees to single out conservative groups for extra scrutiny when those groups applied for special tax treatment.

"What does the president believe? Does the president believe that would be illegal?" Stephanopoulos asked.

"I can't speak to the law here. The law is irrelevant," Pfeiffer said. "The activity was outrageous and inexcusable, and it was stopped. It needs to be -- it needs to be fixed so we ensure it never happens again."

"You don't really mean the law is irrelevant, do you?" Stephanopoulos asked Pfeiffer.

"What I mean is that, whether it's legal or illegal is not important to the fact that the conduct doesn't matter. The Department of Justice has said they're looking into the legality of this. The president is not going to wait for that. We have to make sure it doesn't happen again, regardless of how that turns out."

Pfeiffer insisted that no one in the White House knew about IRS scandal until the White House was told last month that the inspector-general was about to conclude his investigation into the matter.

"We didn't see the report until it was released last Wednesday," Pfeiffer said. He also said there was "absolutely"  no effort by the White House to influence the IRS.

'Why are you here today?'

Over on CBS's "Face the Nation," Pfeiffer blamed the "Republican playbook" for making a big deal of the various scandals that have engulfed the Obama administration.

Host Bob Schieffer had asked Pfeiffer about a New York Times report saying that White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough has told his staff not to spend any more than 10 percent of their time on the scandals.

"Does that  mean you don't take any of this seriously?" Schieffer asked.

"Oh, no. Absolutely not. There are some very serious issues here, particularly the IRS where there was inexcusable conduct that needs to be fixed. And that's going to happen," Pfeiffer said.

"The point that our chief of staff is making is that this is a Republican playbook here, which is try -- when they don't have a positive agenda, try to drag Washington into a swamp of partisan fishing expeditions, trumped-up hearings and false allegations.We're not going to let that distract us and the president from actually doing the people's work and fighting for the middle class."

Schieffer asked Pfeiffer why the Obama administration sent Susan Rice to the Sunday talk shows to discuss the Benghazi attack. 

"But what I'm saying to you is that was just a PR plan to send out somebody who didn't know anything about what had happened. Why did you do that? Why didn't the secretary of state come and tell us what they knew? And, if you knew nothing, say we don't know yet? Why didn't the White House chief of staff come out?"

"I mean, I would -- and I mean this in no disrespect to you," Schieffer told Pfeiffer. "Why are you here today? Why isn't the White House chief of staff here to tell us what happened?"

Scheiffer later asked asked Pfeiffer, "Do you kind of feel like someone who drew the black bean here? You're the one that has to go out and try to explain --"

"Oh, no. It's a privilege to be here with you, Bob," Pfeiffer said.

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