IRS Apology Rejected: Republican Lawmaker Wants Lois Lerner Prosecuted
by Andrew Kerr
On Monday, a Republican congressman rejected the apology issued by the IRS last week for improperly targeting Tea Party and conservative nonprofit groups based on their political viewpoint.
Rep. Vern Buchanan of Florida, the chairman of the oversight committee responsible for the IRS, said the apology was too little, too late. The Washington Examiner reported that Buchanan called on the Trump administration to revisit prosecuting former IRS Commissioner Lois Lerner, who was in charge of the agency during the scandal.
“Lerner betrayed the nation’s trust yet managed to avoid prosecution,” Buchanan said. “Heads should roll and people should be held accountable for this gross abuse of power.” “An apology five years after the fact is not good enough,” he added.
In April, Republicans requested the Justice Department take a “fresh look” at the case against Lerner. However, the DOJ decided in September not to reopen a criminal investigation into the matter. “(T)he Department determined that reopening the criminal investigation would not be appropriate based on the available evidence,” Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd wrote at the time in a letter to Rep. Kevin Brady, the Republican chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
Brady said Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Department of Justice made a “terrible decision” by opting to not hold Lerner accountable. Despite the Justice Department’s insistence that a criminal investigation would be inappropriate, the IRS on Thursday settled two lawsuits alleging the agency illegally targeted conservative groups under the Obama administration. One of the settlements stipulated the IRS issue a formal apology for illegally targeting conservative and tea party groups due to their political beliefs dating back to 2013.
The Washington Times reported that the other settlement, a class-action lawsuit brought by the NorCal Tea Party with 428 members, includes a “generous” multi-million dollar payout. In a statement Thursday, Sessions said the IRS had “no excuse” for its conduct. “Hundreds of organizations were affected by these actions, and they deserve an apology from the IRS,” he said. Sessions added that the illegal targeting of conservative groups that took place under the Obama administration’s watch “was wrong and should have never occurred.” “It is improper for the IRS to single out groups for different treatment based on their names or ideological positions,” Sessions stated.
Court documents show the IRS issued a “sincere apology” for its conduct toward conservative groups. Despite the two settlements, it appears the DOJ will not revisit the issue. Brady has expressed his desire to introduce legislation to reorganize the IRS from the ground up. He said he would advance the reform passage after President Donald Trump’s tax reform package is passed.
The House Ways and Means committee is reportedly expected to unveil their long-awaited tax plan later this week.