Two Repub­li­cans ask to re­open case against ex-IRS chief Lerner.

Key ev­i­dence lost, ques­tions linger on

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY STEPHEN DINAN

Two top Repub­li­cans asked the Jus­tice De­part­ment on Wed­nes­day to take a new look at the ev­i­dence against for­mer IRS se­nior ex­ec­u­tive Lois G. Lerner to see whether charges should still be brought against her for tar­get­ing Tea Party groups and los­ing key ev­i­dence in the case.

Ms. Lerner was cleared af­ter an in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion but Reps. Kevin Brady and Peter Roskam, re­spec­tively the chair­man of the Ways and Means Com­mit­tee and the panel’s tax pol­icy sub­com­mit­tee, say there are plenty of ques­tions with how that probe was run, and said that a new look by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s Jus­tice De­part­ment is war­ranted.

“Tax­pay­ers de­serve to know that the DOJ’s pre­vi­ous eval­u­a­tion was not tainted by pol­i­tics,” the con­gress­men said in a let­ter to At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions.

But Wil­liam W. Tay­lor, Ms. Lerner’s lawyer, said she was prop­erly cleared of charges by the pre­vi­ous probe.

“Ms. Lerner did not vi­o­late any laws. There is no ev­i­dence that she did and no new in­ves­ti­ga­tion will change that re­al­ity,” he said in an email to The Washington Times on Wed­nes­day.

The IRS tar­get­ing came to light nearly four years ago af­ter Ms. Lerner, seek­ing to get ahead of bad news from an in­spec­tor gen­eral’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion, planted a ques­tion at a con­fer­ence to re­veal that her agency had in fact been sin­gling out con­ser­va­tive groups for in­tru­sive scru­tiny.

IRS lead­ers had pre­vi­ously de­nied any such tar­get­ing in re­sponses to Congress.

Ms. Lerner was a cen­tral fig­ure in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, though her ex­act role re­mains in dis­pute.

Repub­li­cans say she helped or­ches­trate the tar­get­ing, and re­leased emails show­ing an­i­mus to­ward con­ser­va­tive groups and the GOP. But the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion not only cleared her of wrong­do­ing, but said she was ac­tu­ally try­ing to fix things from the in­side, be­com­ing the first of­fi­cial to re­al­ize what the agency was do­ing was wrong.

Mr. Brady and Mr. Roskam said their com­mit­tee’s own ex­haus­tive in­ves­ti­ga­tion found that Ms. Lerner did “im­prop­erly in­flu­ence” the IRS to tar­get con­ser­va­tive groups, deny­ing them their right to ap­proval for tax-ex­empt sta­tus.

The Ways and Means Com­mit­tee also de­ter­mined that Ms. Lerner gave “mis­lead­ing state­ments” to the in­spec­tor gen­eral, and said her use of a per­sonal email to do some gov­ern­ment busi­ness “risked ex­pos­ing, and may ac­tu­ally have dis­closed, con­fi­den­tial tax­payer in­for­ma­tion.”

Af­ter the May 2013 rev­e­la­tion of the tar­get­ing, Pres­i­dent Obama called for an in­ves­ti­ga­tion. The Ways and Means Com­mit­tee is­sued its of­fi­cial re­fer­ral of Ms. Lerner to the Jus­tice De­part­ment for a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion nearly a year later.

Along the way, though, even as the probe was con­tin­u­ing, Mr. Obama as­serted that there was “not a smidgen of cor­rup­tion” at the IRS. Mr. Brady and Mr. Roskam said that pre­empted the chance for a fair in­quiry from his own em­ploy­ees.

“It is clear that when the DOJ an­nounced in Oc­to­ber 2015 that it would not bring charges against Lois Lerner, the agency was fol­low­ing Pres­i­dent Obama’s sig­nal on how he wanted the in­ves­ti­ga­tion to be han­dled,” the con­gress­men said.

At the time, As­sis­tant At­tor­ney Gen­eral Peter Kadzik said ca­reer prose­cu­tors had de­cided against bring­ing charges, say­ing that while there was ev­i­dence of bad man­age­ment and poor judg­ment, none of that rose to the level of a crime.

What­ever the sit­u­a­tion with the Jus­tice De­part­ment, the IRS is still fac­ing le­gal wran­gling over the tar­get­ing. A class-ac­tion law­suit in­volv­ing 428 groups that were part of the tar­get­ing is still pro­ceed­ing in a fed­eral court in Ohio, and two cases are still live in a fed­eral court in Washington, D.C.

The IRS has been a tar­get for the GOP for years — and the agency, un­der Mr. Obama, feuded back. Two years ago the agency si­phoned money away from tax­payer ser­vices, leav­ing the vast ma­jor­ity of phone calls dur­ing tax sea­son unan­swered, as the agency tried to an­gle for more money out of the GOP-led Congress.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

For­mer In­ter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice of­fi­cial Lois Lerner was ac­cused of tar­get­ing Tea Party groups. The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion cleared her of charges by the probe.

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