Republicans slammed the Friday announcement by President Donald Trump’s justice department that it will not investigate the official who allegedly oversaw the IRS’ secret sabotage of Americans’ civic groups before the 2012 election.
“This is a terrible decision,” said a statement from Texas Rep. Kevin Brady, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, which oversees taxes and the IRS. His statement continued:
It sends the message that the same legal, ethical, and Constitutional standards we all live by do not apply to Washington political appointees – who will now have the green light to target Americans for their political beliefs and mislead investigators without ever being held accountable for their lawlessness. Not only has the Department of Justice chosen not to hold [IRS manager] Lois Lerner criminally liable for obstructing an official investigation by the Inspector General, the Department continues to defend the Internal Revenue Service’s unconstitutional actions against taxpayers in ongoing civil litigation.
“The decision not to prosecute Lois Lerner is a miscarriage of justice,” said an accompanying statement from the chairman of the tax policy subcommittee, Illinois Rep. Peter Roskam. He continued:
On top of Ms. Lerner’s actions against taxpayers – denying tax-exempt status to groups for political gain and failing to protect taxpayer information – the Department’s response blatantly ignores our most troubling finding: that Ms. Lerner intentionally misled federal investigators in a flagrant violation of the law. This is unacceptable and Ms. Lerner must be held accountable. Our democracy is injured when those who taxpayers entrust with great authority ignore the law to advance their own political agenda without repercussion.”
Tom Fitton, head of the Watchdog law firm Judicial Watch, joined the criticism, saying:
The scandal has been underway since 2013 when the IRS admitted that its officials had slow-rolled and blocked routine requests for tax-exempt status from conservative Tea Party groups while giving quick approval to liberal groups. That obstruction of tax-exempt status made it difficult for the conservative groups to raise funds needed to campaign against then-president Barack Obama during the 2012 election. Under Obama, the IRS and the justice department stonewalled and blocked subsequent investigations, via many tactics such the destruction of email records.
GOP officials and members of the non-profit groups hoped that Trump’s deputies would investigate and prosecute the wrongdoing.
But the September 8 letter from the Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Justice Department said it would not even reopen the investigation because officials require “proof beyond a reasonable doubt that a government employee intentionally discriminated against an applicant for a tax-exempt status based on viewpoint.”
Prior investigations had found mismanagement that disproportionately hurt conservative groups, and the recently appointed department officials reviewed the new reports and concluded that “reopening the criminal investigation would not be appropriate based on the available evidence,” said the Friday letter from Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd.
That answer was a response to an April 12 letter from the two GOP leaders on the tax committee, which included more information about Lerner’s activities, and a request that the department “take a fresh look at the evidence presented in the attached referral.” The referral is provided here.
“I have the utmost respect for Attorney General Sessions, but I’m troubled by his Department’s lack of action to fully respond to our request and deliver accountability,” Bray said in his Friday statement. “Today’s decision does not mean Lois Lerner is innocent. It means the justice system in Washington is deeply flawed.”