Federal Judge Threatens IRS Commissioner With Contempt

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Watchdog group Judicial Watch, which has been diligently plugging away at the greatest abuse-of-power scandal in modern history, reports on a lively Wednesday in Freedom of Information Act court:

Judicial Watch announced that U.S District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan today threatened to hold the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service and Justice Department attorneys in contempt of court after the IRS failed to produce status reports and newly recovered emails of Lois Lerner, former director of the Exempt Organizations Unit of the IRS, as he had ordered on July 1, 2015.

During the a status hearing today, Sullivan warned that the failure to follow his order was serious and the IRS and Justice Department’s excuses for not following his July 1 order were “indefensible, ridiculous, and absurd.”

He asked the IRS’ Justice Department lawyer Geoffrey Klimas, “Why didn’t the IRS comply” with his court order and “why shouldn’t the Court hold the Commissioner of the IRS in contempt.”  Judge Sullivan referenced his contempt findings against Justice Department prosecutors in the prosecution of late Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) and reminded the Justice Department attorney he had the ability to detain him for contempt.  Warning he would tolerate no further disregard of his orders, Judge Sullivan said, “I will haul into court the IRS Commissioner to hold him personally in contempt.”

After the hearings were over, Judge Sullivan wrote an order calling the Administration’s resistance to his orders “nonsensical” and clearly stating that IRS Commissioner John Koskinen and others “shall be directed to show cause as to why they should not be held in contempt of Court” if they continue dragging their feet.

The judicial order IRS has been defying required them to begin making weekly disclosures of scandal kingpin Lois Lerner’s emails. You may recall the year-long comedy routine in which the IRS claimed Lois Lerner’s hard drive, along with those of several other key agency officials, mysteriously malfunctioned and was inexplicably destroyed, with no backups whatsoever of her correspondence.

Koskinen presented ridiculous and ever-changing excuses to Congress for why basic federal record-keeping procedures were not followed, until suddenly the boys in the IRS information-technology boiler room suddenly popped up and said hey, whaddya know, we’ve got copies of Lerner’s emails right here.

Having thus delayed the biggest story of the modern era until it turned to dust in the fast-moving left-wing media mind, the IRS is still dragging its feet and attempting to delay disclosure for as long as possible. That’s because the information they’re hiding is devastating. If any of this had come out in a timely fashion, who knows how much trouble it would have made for Barack Obama and his superfans at the Internal Revenue Service? How could all those congressional Democrats – some of whom are unindicted co-conspirators in the scandal – have derailed hearings and turned them into clown shows, if the public knew months ago what Judicial Watch is uncovering today?

For example:

Yesterday, Judicial Watch released the first batch believed to be newly recovered emails of Lerner. The new documents show that Lerner and other top officials in the IRS, including soon-to-be Acting IRS Commissioner Steve Miller, closely monitored and approved the controversial handling of tax-exempt applications by Tea Party organizations.  The documents also show that at least one group received an inquiry from the IRS in order to buy time and keep the organization from contacting Congress.

That’s right, folks – we’ve got documentation showing the IRS took action against one of the conservative groups it was persecuting, a Tea Party group that was getting restless after waiting eighteen months to hear anything about its application for tax-exempt status, to keep them from complaining about their treatment. The IRS “asked some fairly detailed questions and gave the organization a short deadline to respond,” which is a fine kettle of fish when you’ve gone a year and a half without hearing a peep from the Tax Exempt Organizations Division… bringing you all the way to February of a presidential election year.

“Let me know if it’s a taxpayer I should know about,” sniffed then-IRS Deputy Commissioner Steven Miller. Nice to know there are taxpayers IRS honchos consider beneath their notice.

The picture painted by these emails is of nervous executives freaking out over congressional oversight, which is quite a change from the way they were swaggering around and boasting of their determination to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United free-speech decision by administrative fiat at the beginning of the Tea Party targeting scandal. They knew they were in real trouble, and they needed a way to keep the scandal from reaching critical mass during congressional hearings.

Eventually, Lois Lerner staged a question at a public appearance to admit her department had been unfairly targeting conservative groups, in advance of a blockbuster Inspector General report that came to the same conclusion. (Obama apologists always conveniently forget the IRS scandal began with Lerner admitting those Tea Party groups had been treated improperly.) Everything the Administration has done since that day was a calculated effort to deflect attention from the scandal and deflate public outrage. Obama briefly pretended to be outraged – more angry indeed than the targeted Tea Party groups themselves! – before judging it safe to declare the scandal a non-event and signal his media to drop coverage.

The story was dragged out for so long that even people who were intensely interested when it began have to rack their brains for all the details from the long, loony saga. It’s telling that nobody in the media seems interested in joining Judicial Watch in these Freedom of Information Act battles, which keep squeezing out revelations that would have caused political earthquakes if they had been made public years ago.

Earlier this week, the current chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), called on President Obama to fire IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, and said Congress might consider taking action against him if Obama doesn’t. “At best, Commissioner Koskinen was derelict in his duties to preserve agency records. At worst, he and the IRS engaged in an orchestrated plan to hide information from Congress,” Chaffetz charged.

Of course, Obama won’t do anything, confident everyone has long since forgotten about his vows to work with Congress and get to the bottom of the Tea Party targeting scandal. If Judge Sullivan ends up holding Koskinen in contempt for his stonewalling, any media organization that deigns to cover the story will have to set the Wayback Machine to 2013 to remind readers of what’s going on.

“The missing and-then-not missing Lois Lerner saga is a stark example of the Obama administration’s contempt for a federal court and the rule of law,” said Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton. “That Obama administration officials would risk jail rather than disclose these Lerner documents shows that the IRS scandal has just gotten a whole lot worse.”

Or it shows that the Administration remains confident that corruption has a shelf life, and their friendly media won’t make a big deal out of anything short of the unlikely spectacle of Congress impeaching the IRS commissioner, or a federal judge actually tossing him in jail.


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