Nightly News   |  May 19, 2013

White House on the defensive

On Sunday, the White House aggressively responded to its critics as controversies continue to brew in Washington. NBC’s Peter Alexander reports.

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>>> house went on the defensive today. though the president himself steered clear of the controversies. nbc's peter alexander has the latest.

>> bomb! bomb!

>> reporter: with the president addressing graduates at the historically black morehouse college in atlanta today, no mention of the convergence of trofrz sti controversies still brewing in washington . the washington is aggressively responding calling this aggressive and absurd. on the irs issue --

>> no question republicans are trying to make political hay.

>> reporter: a senior advisor speak out.

>> when they want to do when lacking a positive agenda is try to drag washington into a swamp of partisan fishing expeditions and trumped up allegations.

>> reporter: president obama 's agency promising a top-down review.

>> there is a culture of intimidation throughout the administration. it is no wonder that the agents and the irs sort of get the message. the president demonizes his opponents.

>> reporter: but gop leaders concede there is no evidence the white house ordering the targeting of conservatives.

>> we don't have anything to say that the president knew about this.

>> the investigation has just begun so i'm not going to reach a conclusion about what we may find.

>> reporter: after what may have been among the toughest weeks of the obama presidency, a just-released poll shows the president's approval rating largely unaffected. still the majority of americans view all these issues as very important to the nation, despite white house claims that some congressional republicans are overplaying their hand.

>> this is not water gate but there are some people in the administration who have acted as if they want to be knicnixonian.

>> what unites all these things, it undermines the credibility of the administration and the president and the competence of government. this is a time when we have a president who is really trying hard to prove that government can improve our lives.

>> reporter: at an event this afternoon, president obama complained that partisan battles are keeping this country's economy from getting stronger. lester, there are more battles on tap this week. former irs commissioner doug shul man is scheduled to testify before congress wednesday.

>> peter, thank you.