Attorney General Loretta Lynch refused to attend or send a representative to a congressional hearing in which she was likely to be asked why the Department of Justice (DOJ) declined to prosecute more than two dozen government employees accused of theft, sexual harassment and data manipulation.
The hearing focused on DOJ’s refusal to prosecute 17 of the 29 criminal cases referred to it by the Department of the Interior Inspector-General between October 2015 and March 2016, according to the House Natural Resources Committee’s subcommittee on oversight and investigations.
“This number is troubling, especially when the DOJ participates alongside the [IG] in some of these investigations that it ultimately declines to prosecute,” said Rep. Louie Gohmert. The Texas Republican is chairman of the subcommittee.
“We invited DOJ to testify today to help us understand how it works with the [IG] and how it decides whether to prosecute cases involving clear criminal violations,” Gohmert said.
“Rather than send a witness, DOJ instead put off the committee for days, questioned committee staff as to whether this committee has the right to request their presence at the witness table and ultimately suggested that we read the ‘Principles of Federal Prosecution‘ online, instead,” he said.
“The Department of Justice’s refusal to be here today makes me wonder what their motivations for failing to prosecute these cases really are,” Gohmert said.
Gohmert’s panel highlighted the cases DOJ declined to prosecute despite IG investigations that found criminal acts pertaining to theft, sexual harassment and data manipulation. It was the second hearing the subcommittee held pertaining to DOI misconduct in a month. (RELATED: Park Service Execs Commit Ethical Misconduct, Get ‘Punished’ With Promotions)
“We refer cases where we believe have evidence of a criminal violation,” Deputy IG Mary Kendall told the subcommittee. (RELATED: Porn, Prostitution And Bribes: 8 Times The DOJ Let Bad Bureaucrats Off The Hook)
“A considerable number of these cases do not get prosecuted for any number of appropriate reasons,” Kendall said. “Other times, a matter may be accepted for consideration for prosecution, but gets delayed due to higher priority cases or other resource limitations.” (RELATED: Interior Watchdog ‘Politicized’ Investigations, Enviro Nonprofit Claims)
Forgoing prosecutions isn’t the only way Lynch’s agency prevents justice from being served. DOJ occasionally collaborates with the IG on investigations, but that partnership isn’t always helpful, according to Gohmert.
“While Justice’s involvement in [IG] investigations can be beneficial, it can also slow the pace of an investigation, and it can limit what [the IG] is able to report to Interior for accountability purposes,” Gohmert said. Kendall agreed, saying “it can slow the process.”
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