This week was a disappointing one for conservatives who wanted to see the Trump administration prosecute former IRS official Lois Lerner for her role in one of the most intrusive, illegal scandals of the Obama years.
Lerner, who was at the center of the controversy when it was revealed that the Obama IRS had targeted conservative groups for additional scrutiny in their tax-exempt applications, will not face charges, despite requests from congressional Republicans. The Department of Justice announced Friday that, after reviewing the file, they had opted not to re-open the case.
“The Department determined that reopening the criminal investigation would not be appropriate based on the available evidence,” Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd wrote, responding to a letter from House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady.
Brady slammed the DOJ’s decision as “terrible.”
“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,” Brady said in a statement.
In the early years of the Obama administration, Lerner was in charge of the IRS division implicated in the scandal. The division applied extra scrutiny to dozens of groups with names including words like “Tea Party,” “conservative,” and “patriot,” leading those groups to conclude they were being singled out for political reasons. Subsequent investigations proved this theory correct.
Since then, Republican lawmakers have brought pressure on the Obama administration to prosecute charges against Lerner, and the message has always been that they refused to do so because of political favoritism. But now, with an entirely Republican administration in charge, lawmakers are baffled as to why the DOJ won’t take up the case.
“Today’s decision does not mean Lois Lerner is innocent. It means the justice system in Washington is deeply flawed,” wrote Brady.
Rep. Peter Roskam of the Tax Policy subcommittee agreed.
“The decision not to prosecute Lois Lerner is a miscarriage of justice,” Roskam wrote. “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.”
While the DOJ insists there is no evidence of “criminal intent” in Lerner’s actions, the decision to let her off the hook sets a disturbing precedence. Political motivations cannot be allowed to gain a foothold in the IRS. With this decision, the Department of Justice is allowing a very dangerous deed to go unpunished.