Sadly, the 18 month investigation into the IRS targeting of conservative groups isn’t over, and it may be worse than anyone thought. A federal judge has broken loose more emails that the DOJ had surely hoped would never surface. The picture it reveals isn’t pretty. The documents prove that Lois Lerner met with DOJ’s Election Crimes Division a month before the 2010 elections.
It has to be embarrassing to the DOJ, which may not be the most impartial one to be investigating the IRS. In fact, the DOJ withheld over 800 pages of Lerner documents citing “taxpayer privacy” and “deliberative privilege.” Yet these internal DOJ documents show Ms. Lerner was talking to DOJ officials about prosecuting tax-exempt entities (yes, criminally!) two years before the IRS conceded there was inappropriate targeting.
Ms. Lerner met with top officials from the DOJ’s Election Crimes Branch in October of 2010. Although Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the DOJ (Judicial Watch v. Department of Justice, No. 14-cv-01239), the DOJ coughed up dirt only on court order. Even then, the DOJ handed over only two pages of heavily redacted emails.
What’s more, the DOJ withheld 832 pages in their entirety. They revealed that Mr. Obama’s DOJ called an October 8, 2010 meeting with the IRS “concerning 501(c)(4) issues.” On September 30, 2010, the DOJ’s Election Crimes prosecutor emailed Ms. Lerner:
“Hi Lois-It’s been a long time, and you might not remember me, I’ve taken on [REDACTED] duties. I’m looking forward to meeting you, Can we chat in advance? I’m a [REDACTED]”
Ms. Lerner responded on October 2, 2010:
“Sure-that’s a good Idea [sic]. I have a meeting out of the office Monday morning, but will try you when I get back sometime early afternoon. You can try me at 202 283-8848.”
Documents from a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the IRS show that Ms. Lerner asked the DOJ whether tax-exempt entities could be criminally prosecuted. This May 8, 2013 email by Ms. Lerner went to Nikole C. Flax, Chief of Staff to Acting IRS Commissioner Steven T. Miller, who would later be fired by President Obama:
“I got a call today from Richard Pilger Director Elections Crimes Branch at DOJ … He wanted to know who at IRS the DOJ folk s [sic] could talk to about Sen. Whitehouse idea at the hearing that DOJ could piece together false statement cases about applicants who “lied” on their 1024s–saying they weren’t planning on doing political activity, and then turning around and making large visible political expenditures. DOJ is feeling like it needs to respond, but want to talk to the right folks at IRS to see whether there are impediments from our side and what, if any damage this might do to IRS programs. I told him that sounded like we might need several folks from IRS…”
DOJ’s Mr. Pilger admitted that DOJ officials met Ms. Lerner in October 2010. Moreover, according to congressional investigators, a Lerner email from October 5, 2010 shows the IRS sent the FBI and DOJ a “1.1 million page database of information from 501(c)(4) tax exempt organizations” that contained confidential taxpayer information.
In her May 2013 answer to a planted question about the alleged targeting of Tea Party and conservative groups, Ms. Lerner suggested that the alleged targeting occurred due to an “uptick” in 501 (c)(4) applications to the IRS. In reality, there was a decrease, and as for targeting (what targeting?), well, you know the rest.
Remember those rogue IRS employees in Cincinnati? They were confused. And while all Americans should be concerned, Judicial Watch sounds fit to be tied.
“No wonder the Department of Justice under Eric Holder has done no serious investigation of the Obama IRS scandal,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “These new documents dramatically show how the Justice Department is up to its neck in the IRS scandal and can’t be trusted to investigate crimes associated with the IRS abuses that targeted Obama’s critics,” he said. “Richard Nixon was impeached for less.”
Perhaps the latter is an overstatement. Yet it is getting harder and harder to simply accept President Obama’s ‘no smidgen of corruption’ remark made to Fox News in February, no matter how sincere and forthright his delivery.
Follow me on Forbes if you want alerts to future tax articles. You can reach me at Wood@WoodLLP.com. This discussion is not intended as legal advice, and cannot be relied upon for any purpose without the services of a qualified professional.