Lerner fears for her life if forced to tes­tify on tea party tar­get­ing

The Washington Times Daily - - POL­I­TICS - BY STEPHEN DI­NAN

For­mer IRS se­nior ex­ec­u­tive Lois G. Lerner told a fed­eral court this week that she faces the pos­si­bil­ity of death threats if her role in the tax agency’s tea party-tar­get­ing be­comes public, and asked a judge to for­ever seal her up­com­ing de­po­si­tion in a class ac­tion law­suit brought by hun­dreds of groups that were tar­geted.

Mr. Lerner and Holly Paz, an­other fig­ure from the IRS tea party tar­get­ing, told the judge they’ve al­ready faced “ha­rass­ment and death threats” be­fore, and said they fear an­other me­dia firestorm if their ver­sion of events from the tea party tar­get­ing were to be­come public.

The two women said they are will­ing to tes­tify, but said they could be putting “their lives in se­ri­ous jeop­ardy.”

“Mss. Lerner and Paz have demon­strated that the public dis­sem­i­na­tion of their de­po­si­tion tes­ti­mony would ex­pose them and their fam­i­lies to ha­rass­ment and a cred­i­ble risk of vi­o­lence and phys­i­cal harm,” they said in doc­u­ments sub­mit­ted by their lawyer to Judge Michael R. Bar­rett.

The two women sub­mit­ted se­cret ev­i­dence to the judge that they said backed up the death threat claim. They said the threats they’ve al­ready got­ten con­tained “graphic, pro­fane and dis­turb­ing lan­guage” that they said has caused them em­bar­rass­ment.

The groups su­ing the IRS in the class ac­tion law­suit have ob­jected to the se­crecy or­der, leav­ing the mat­ter to Judge Bar­rett to de­cide.

Both Ms. Lerner and Ms. Paz are among the IRS fig­ures who’ve been or­dered to be de­posed in the class ac­tion law­suit. Ms. Paz al­ready gave one de­po­si­tion in the case in 2015.

The women want that past de­po­si­tion and their fu­ture tes­ti­mony to re­main hid­den from the public and only avail­able to the lawyers in­volved in the case. They asked that the seal be per­ma­nent.

Ms. Lerner has re­fused to talk in public about her role in the tar­get­ing, fa­mously en­gag­ing in a show­down with the House Over­sight Com­mit­tee af­ter she ap­peared, de­liv­ered a state­ment of in­no­cence and then balked at an­swer­ing any ques­tions.

The House even­tu­ally voted to hold her in con­tempt, but an Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion pros­e­cu­tor — act­ing just hours be­fore his res­ig­na­tion be­came ef­fec­tive — an­nounced the Jus­tice De­part­ment wouldn’t pur­sue the case.

The Jus­tice De­part­ment also cleared Ms. Lerner in a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion, say­ing she was one of the first in the IRS to real­ize they were act­ing wrongly, and took steps to clean up the mess.

House Repub­li­cans asked Wed­nes­day that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion re­open the case. They say Ms. Lerner ob­structed of­fi­cial in­ves­ti­ga­tions and pointed to ev­i­dence from emails in which Ms. Lerner mocked con­ser­va­tives and Repub­li­cans as ev­i­dence of mal­ice, which the GOP said helped foster the en­vi­ron­ment that led to tea party groups be­ing tar­geted by the IRS.

The IRS still faces sev­eral le­gal cases stem­ming from the tar­get­ing.

The class ac­tion law­suit in­volves 428 groups who were snared by the IRS tar­get­ing pro­ce­dures. That case, which is be­ing heard in a fed­eral court in Ohio, is in the dis­cov­ery phase, and Ms. Lerner and Ms. Paz are sup­posed to give tes­ti­mony.


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