Alberto Gonzales for Fox News Latino: The President’s Need to Know

May 28th, 2013

Fox News Latino
By Alberto Gonzales
May 24, 2013

The recent revelation that the IRS targeted conservative groups has raised questions about the timing and extent of the President’s knowledge of the scandal. While the President is ultimately responsible for the actions of his Administration, no person has the capacity or time to direct all of the decisions that occur daily within the Executive Branch. Consequently, one of the primary responsibilities of the President’s Chief of Staff and the Counsel to the President is to determine what information should be provided to the President. This is a job that requires judgment and discretion; it is a determination based partly upon White House precedent, and partly on an informal understanding made in advance about such matters between the President, the Chief of Staff and the White House Counsel.

As a matter of prudence and political self-preservation, the Chief of Staff and the Counsel should be concerned about the information provided directly to the President – particularly information about ongoing investigations. Once a President has actual knowledge of an investigation, it is harder for White House staff to distance the President from a related scandal, and it becomes easier for critics to suggest that the political machinery at the White House is secretly directing the investigation in order to minimize the scandal. Even worse, with such knowledge comes the temptation to actually steer an investigation in a direction politically beneficial to the President. Furthermore, every time facts relating to an ongoing investigation are shared beyond the investigating team, it increases the risk that a leak will occur, and that the investigation will be compromised. For these reasons, details about investigations are rarely, if ever, shared with the President.

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