Thomas Gallatin / September 11, 2017

DOJ Decides to Let Lerner Off the Hook

Sessions sides with former AG Eric Holder in deciding not to hold the former IRS director accountable.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has alerted Representatives Kevin Brady (R-TX) and Peter Roskam (R-IL) that the Justice Department will not reopen an investigation into former IRS Director (of Political Targeting) Lois Lerner. In April, Brady and Roskam sent Sessions a letter requesting that he hold Lerner accountable for the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups and for lying to Congress. Brady responded to the DOJ decision, saying, “This is a terrible decision. It sends the message that the same legal, ethical and constitutional standards we all live by do not apply to Washington political appointees — who will now have the green light to target Americans for their political belief and mislead investigators without ever being held accountable for their lawlessness.”

Sessions justified his decision by pointing to the Treasury inspector general’s conclusion that the IRS was guilty only of “mishandling tax-exempt applications,” which “impacted applicants affiliated with the Tea Party and similar organizations.” However, the IG concluded that IRS officials didn’t act with “criminal intent.”

Once again that popular Washington buzz phrase “no criminal intent” has been evoked as a shield against holding anyone in government liable for breaking the law. It’s Hillary Clinton’s pathetic (and successful) “she didn’t mean to do it” defense. This is getting quite tiresome, as Brady rightly points out, because Washington has a double standard for who it requires to abide by the laws of the land. Second, it serves only to reinforce the perspective that those within the politically connected halls of power will be protected against the consequences of running afoul of the law.

Why did Sessions come to this decision? One thought is that the DOJ is still chock full of Obama-era appointees. One of the points we have made repeatedly is that Donald Trump has been too slow in nominating people for government posts. As a result, there remain too many leftist elements in places of power within DC. There also may be an element of concern here in not wanting to appear to be prosecuting out of mere political payback. That’s understandable, but in our estimation it’s unquestionable that Lerner and the IRS broke the law. The consequences of not dealing with that are in the long run greater than fear of inconvenient political optics.

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