GOP angry at DoJ for refusal to prosecute Lois Lerner
Back in April, House Republicans asked the Justice Department to take a fresh look at the possibility of indicting former IRS official Lois Lerner for her role in the targeting scandal.
Yesterday, DoJ informed the House that they determined that reopening the criminal investigation into Lerner's actions would not be "appropriate."
"[T]he Department determined that reopening the criminal investigation would not be appropriate based on the available evidence," Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd wrote in a letter to Kevin Brady, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
Brady called that a "terrible decision" that suggested political appointees are not held accountable under the law.
"I have the utmost respect for Attorney General [Jeff] Sessions, but I'm troubled by his Department's lack of action to fully respond to our request and deliver accountability," the Texas lawmaker said in a statement.
Peter Roskam, the Illinois chairman of the tax subcommittee, also criticized the decision, terming it "a miscarriage of justice."
Previously, the lawmakers had suggested that the Obama Department of Justice had declined to prosecute Lerner in 2015 because it was taking political cues from Obama. In 2014, their committee had voted to refer Lerner to the Justice Department for prosecution for her role in the targeting scandal.
From 2010 to 2012, Lerner led the division of the IRS that subjected some nonprofit organizations, including Tea Party and conservative groups, to added scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status, a controversy that she acknowledged in response to a planted question at an event in 2013.
Brady's panel concluded that Lerner influenced the division to target right-leaning groups.
Boyd wrote Friday that the department "carefully reviewed" its original 2015 decision not to prosecute, and had new attorneys independently review the investigation. He said that to convict Lerner, it would be necessary to prove that she intentionally discriminated against the groups based on their political views.
The IRS defense is absurd. They claim that overzealous minor bureaucrats in the Cincinnati office were solely responsible for hundreds of conservative groups being investigated. They weren't "targeted" at all, says the IRS.
But without evidence of "intent," it becomes impossible to prove that Lerner was criminally liable in a court of law. Of course, it would have been helpful - if not decisive - if the IRS hadn't destroyed thousands of emails and dozens of computer hard drives. But there, too, the IRS is claiming it made an innocent mistake.
If this proves to be too much for you and I to believe, we're not alone. But the difference between identifying an obvious pattern of illegal behavior and proving the malevolent intent of the agency in a court of law is the difference between bringing Lerner to justice and allowing her to get away with it.
A completely unsatisfactory state of affairs.