The Justice Department will not seek criminal charges against former IRS official Lois Lerner for her role in targeting conservative non-profits groups, CNN is reporting.
The investigation into Lerner’s and the IRS’ handling of conservative groups’ tax-exempt applications uncovered substantial mismanagement and poor judgment, but none of it rose to the criminal level, according to the letter, which Assistant Attorney General Peter Kadzik sent to members of Congress on Friday.
“Substantial evidence of mismanagement, poor judgment and institutional inertia leading to the belief by many tax-exempt applicants that the IRS targeted them based on their political viewpoints. But poor management is not a crime,” the letter reads, according to CNN.
The Justice Department opened its investigation of Lerner, then the director of IRS’ exemptions unit, after it was discovered that she had flagged a disproportionate number of conservative groups’ tax-exempt status applications. Lerner was placed on a leave of absence from the IRS in May 2013 and resigned in September of that year.
In May 2014, Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination during a House hearing, forcing Congress to cite her for contempt. Congress struggled to obtain key information from the Lerner, the IRS and the Obama administration during its own investigations.
In Friday’s letter, Kadzik states that the DOJ found “no evidence that any IRS official acted based on political, discriminatory, corrupt, or other inappropriate motives that would support a criminal prosecution.”
“We also found no evidence that any official involved in the handling of tax-exempt applications or IRS leadership attempted to obstruct justice,” he added.
“Based on the evidence developed in this investigation and the recommendation of experienced career prosecutors and supervising attorneys at the department, we are closing our investigation and will not seek any criminal charges,” the letter concludes.
A number of Republican lawmakers and conservative groups condemned the DOJ’s decision to let Lerner and the IRS off the hook. Utah Rep. [crscore]Jason Chaffetz[/crscore], who chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, says that Congress will continue to investigate the IRS’ role in the targeting of conservatives.
“This announcement is a reminder that the Obama administration continues to refuse to hold anyone accountable at the IRS,” said Chaffetz, who noted that the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration conducted an audit more than two years ago confirming the IRS was targeting conservative groups.
“While DOJ may have closed its investigation, as a coequal branch of government, Congress will continue to seek accountability for the American people,” he continued.
“A clear message must be sent that using government agencies to stifle citizens’ freedom of speech will not be tolerated. If the administration won’t send that message, Congress will.”
This article has been updated with a comment from Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz.