House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz said it is “unclear” whether the Obama administration directed a U.S. Attorney not to prosecute Lois Lerner for contempt of Congress.
“Today’s announcement is disappointing and exhibits a disregard for the rule of law,” Chaffetz said in a Wednesday statement after Ronald Machen, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, told Speaker John Boehner that Lerner would not be charged for contempt.
The House of Representatives voted to hold Lerner in contempt last year. The House could still take it upon itself to arrest Lerner for contempt, but it is unlikely that the legislative body will do so.
“Mr. Machen attempted to absolve Ms. Lerner of her actions by substituting his judgment for that of the full House of Representatives,” Chaffetz said. “It is unclear whether the Administration directed Mr. Machen not to prosecute Lois Lerner, or whether he was motivated by an ideological kinship with IRS’s leadership. The Committee will continue to pursue its ongoing investigation into the targeting of American citizens based on their political beliefs.”
“Our goal is to ensure that the people responsible, including Lois Lerner, are held accountable, and that appropriate reforms and safeguards are put into place at the IRS to guarantee that the rights of Americans are not trampled on again by overzealous bureaucrats with political agendas.”
Former House Oversight chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, who initially led the IRS investigation before turning over his gavel to Chaffetz in January, called Machen’s decision “disgraceful.”
“A lack of accountability for wrongdoing by public officials has become a hallmark of this Administration and specifically of the Holder Justice Department,” Issa said. “Refusing to prosecute Mrs. Lerner and Mr. Holder after they were held in contempt by a vote of the House of Representatives sends a disturbing message that it is permissible for senior government officials to lie to Congress and to ignore subpoenas for information vital to Congressional investigations. Unfortunately, though it is more of the same behavior we have come to anticipate, it is no less disgraceful.”
Machen announced March 16 that he is stepping down as U.S. Attorney and returning to the private sector.