Judge orders IRS to name names in targeting scandal
New life was breathed into the IRS targeting scandal when a federal judge ordered the agency to identify employees who took part in the targeting scandal and explain why there was a delay in identifying their status. "Why hide the ball?" said Judge Reggie Walton.
The IRS had hoped to close off demands for more discovery, arguing that too much time had elapsed and that there were no indications that further searches would be fruitful. In short, they argued that the plaintiffs in the lawsuit were merely on a fishing expedition. "The United States should not be held to respond to far-reaching inquiries," the Department of Justice argued.
That's a rather gutsy statement, considering that the IRS admitted just a few months ago that it had suddenly discovered seven thousandundisclosed documents relating to the scandal. The problem in this scandal is that the inquiries clearly haven't reached far enough. But it raises an interesting question: why is the DoJ still siding with the IRS in the case of conservative targeting by the agency? For that matter, why is John Koskinen still the commissioner of the IRS?
The standard answer to the first question is that the DoJ routinely represents the government in lawsuits. (That's why the refusal of Sally Yates to do so in relation to Donald Trump's executive order on the so-called "travel ban" amounted to insubordination.) However, one would think that the Trump administration would have wanted to get to the bottom of this targeting scandal too, in order to "drain the swamp." Nothing has been swampier than the alleged collusion of the IRS with the Obama administration to silence its political opponents, so … why is Trump's DoJ helping the IRS keep the lid on it?
The larger issue here is the continued presence of Koskinen at the head of the IRS. He has repeatedly misled the public and Congress about the scandal and the investigation of it. Judge Walton might be ordering a better level of compliance and transparency, but Koskinen could have done this himself without conservatives having to plead their case repeatedly in court. He's choosing to stonewall. Koskinen should have been fired on Day One of Trump presidency, and replaced by someone with a commitment to draining the swamp at the IRS.
Recall that the IRS concluded that low-level staffers in their Cincinnati field office were responsible for the targeting. But later discovery showed that the IRS became very concerned about the targeting and had numerous meetings at the highest levels on how to deal with it. Even after those meetings – or perhaps because of them – the targeting of conservative groups continued.
Ed Morrissey is right about Koskinen. We've wrung about as much information out of him as we're going to get, and it's time for a new leader who is committed to getting to the rock bottom of what the agency did, what they knew, and when they knew it. Conservatives have zero confidence in Koskinen that he will fulfill that mandate.
But this is "limited" discovery ordered by the judge. Walton seems like something of a bulldog, so perhaps he can sit on the IRS to get more out of the agency than has previously been forthcoming.
With the destruction of hard drives, "lost" emails, and a host of other stonewalling efforts, it may be that no one will be able to shake the pertinent information out of the IRS.