Treasury Inspector General: ‘Potential Criminal Activity’ Surrounding Lerner Emails

Lois Lerner directed the IRS division that processes applications for tax-exempt status.
Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

The media’s going to have to find a new pack of llamas to chase around, fast, in order to avoid covering the latest revelations in the biggest abuse-of-power scandal and cover-up in modern history, the IRS targeting scandal.

Longtime students of this caper will recall the Obama Administration’s response involved a brief pretense by President Obama that he would get to the bottom of it, a classic bit of Obama corruption where he pretended to fire an acting IRS commissioner whose tenure was expiring anyway… and then a long slog of thwarted investigations, stymied document requests, and Democrats who could have been under investigation for their role in the targeting scandal turning congressional hearings into a circus.

It was all designed to drag the story out for years, until the Democrats’ media pals could declare it “old news” and whine that it was time to “move on.”

The Administration and its fans were able to confuse the issue so thoroughly that people just sort of forgot that the whole thing was kicked off by Lerner admitting that her unit treated conservative groups unfairly, an admission made to a planted question at a public event in order to get out in front of a damning Treasury report, which in turn got rolling because a large number of persecuted organizations complained to Congress.

The nadir of this black comedy was the blizzard of B.S. that blew out of the IRS when crucial email correspondence between scandal kingpin Lois Lerner, former head of the Tax Exempt Organizations division, and various other Administration officials. A shaggy-dog story about how a dozen IRS computers simultaneously crashed, wiping out all that subpoena-responsive email, without any backups even though federal law and agency policy demanded them, was spun for incredulous congressional investigators. The story changed so many times that few can remember where it left off.

The important thing was that more news cycles rolled past like tumbleweeds, giving the media time to cook off a few more op-eds about how only obsessed conservatives still cared that hundreds of organizations were targeted for mistreatment during a presidential campaign because of their political beliefs, and essentially hounded out of the campaign with an endless IRS inquisition that asked all sorts of donor-intimidating questions, but never quite got around to granting or denying that crucial tax-exempt status, while a parade of shady left-wing groups sailed through the process in a matter of weeks.

The scandal is back in the news because some of those “lost” Lerner emails have been recovered, and the Treasury Inspector General seems to think they’re important.  CNN reports:

“There is potential criminal activity,” Treasury Deputy Inspector General Timothy Camus told the House Oversight Committee Thursday.

Camus did not elaborate on who may have committed possible criminal acts. And, he cautioned that the investigation is not complete and cautioned against drawing conclusions until all the facts are in.

“What we’re looking at is potential criminal wrongdoing. This has the looks, feel and smells of being criminal. And the IG confirmed tonight that’s what they’re looking into,” House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz told CNN after the hearing.

Chaffetz invited the inspector general to testify in order to provide an update on the investigation.

Camus told the committee that less than two weeks ago, officials discovered an additional 424 backup tapes and are trying to determine what emails, if any, are on them. The tapes are in addition to about 750 backup tapes the inspector general found in July, some of which contained Lerner emails.

The IRS had told Congress that backup tapes no longer existed.

“The IRS has a lot of explaining to do,” Chaffetz told CNN. “Because what (the inspector general) told us tonight means what the IRS told us is just factually not true.”

How’s that grab you, mainstream media?

The IRS apparently lied to Congress about the disposition of Lerner’s emails, with the obvious motive of dragging out an investigation until it could be politically neutralized. On a scale of one to five llamas, how would you rate the importance of this story if we were talking about a Republican administration? (As I’ve done many times while chronicling this bizarre and outrageous story, I invite readers to imagine we were talking about liberal minority and environmentalist groups getting loislernered during the 2012 re-election campaign of President John McCain and Vice President Sarah Palin, and envision the media response. Don’t think about it too hard, or you’ll be cleaning pieces of your skull off the floor for days.)

It remains to be seen if the “potential criminal activity” mentioned by the Inspector General is something described within the emails and dating from Lerner’s tenure as Tax Exempt Organizations director, or criminal activity pertaining to the way the emails themselves were concealed from the public and Congress. There are reportedly about 32,000 messages to sift through, so it will take some time to digest them, now that the Administration is no longer able to keep them hidden.

One of the emails disclosed to the public has Lerner telling another IRS official, “No one will ever believe that both your hard drive and mine crashed within a week of each other.”

That is pretty hard to swallow, since it’s not 1985 any more. You know what else is hard to believe? Lois Lerner collected $129,000 in bonuses between 2010 and 2013, while she was leading the crackdown on Obama’s political opponents in the wake of the Tea Party wave election and the Citizens United Supreme Court decision upholding free speech.

Actually, maybe that’s not so hard to believe after all.  She did what Democrats needed her to do, it worked, and thus far everyone involved seems to have gotten away with it. That’s why it will happen again.


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