On his last day in office, U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen absolved Lois Lerner of any contempt charges for refusing to answer questions in a Congressional investigation of the IRS targeting scandal.
Robert Wood summarizes the “considerable back story” on Forbes. Suffice it to say that, by all appearances, Lois Lerner was among the original instigators at the IRS who wanted to go after conservative groups. She tried to cover her tracks electronically when reports started to circulate and made sure to beat the Inspector General to the punch when she admitted targeting in a May 2013 press conference.
Several investigations were opened against the agency, centered around Lerner. But when she was called before Congress, she said she was innocent of any wrongdoing, then pled the Fifth – twice. While all this was going on, she was placed on administrative leave and then retired with a full pension.
Congress placed her under contempt — after refusing to answer questions a second time — and referred her to the Department of Justice for prosecution. One simply isn’t allowed to testify that she did nothing wrong, then refuse to testify further.
Which brings us to this latest news.
It’s not that we expected the Department of Justice to do the right thing. We’ve long known that they were in cahoots with the corrupt IRS, going so far as planning to cook up false charges to hassle the same conservative groups both agencies disliked.
But one could at least hope that the DOJ would live up to its name. Well, to the “J” part of the name.
Instead, Machen decided that Lerner’s statement protesting her innocence (17 times, to be exact) wasn’t actually a statement, and thus by making it, she didn’t waive her constitutional right against self-incrimination.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz issued the following statement in response to the Department of Justice’s decision to not proceed with a criminal contempt prosecution of Lois Lerner:
Today’s announcement is disappointing and exhibits a disregard for the rule of law. Mr. Machen attempted to absolve Ms. Lerner of her actions by substituting his judgment for that of the full House of Representatives. 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.
Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan reacted, “As one of his final acts as U.S. attorney for Washington, D.C., Ronald Machen used his power as a political weapon to undermine the rule of law. Machen was legally bound to convene a grand jury, but instead he ignored his obligation and unilaterally decided to ignore the will of the House. … This is wrong, and a great example of why so many Americans distrust their government.”
The targeting took place. No one believes Obama’s statement denying “a smidgen of corruption” anymore. And, there’s no doubt that Lois Lerner was involved. But the administration and its offshoots demonstrate time after time their determination to never let the American people hear the truth about the extent of her involvement.
Jay Sekulow of the ACLJ says this ruling only confirms what he’s been saying for a year: “This investigation was phony from the start.”
Lerner is probably enjoying the congratulations of her lawyer right about now, but the IRS is far from off the hook. The same day, a judge ordered the agency to release a full list of all the organizations targeted by the IRS. This prepares the way for Citizens for Self-Governance’s class-action lawsuit to go to trial.