House Republicans released a scathing 144-page report Tuesday detailing Lois Lerner’s involvement in the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups, the latest development in what could perhaps lead to contempt charges.
The report, which was released without Democrats signing off on it, states Lerner “created unprecedented roadblocks for Tea Party organizations” and “worked surreptitiously to advance new Obama administration regulations that curtail the activities of existing 501(c)(4) organizations.”
Lerner, the former head of the agency’s tax exemption unit, apologized last year for the IRS’ inappropriate targeting of conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status. She later invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, resigned from the agency and has since refused to answer any questions about her possible involvement in the targeting.
Tuesday’s report accuses Lerner of obstructing Congress’ investigation into the targeting scandal, saying she misled investigators about her role in the IRS’ efforts
“Most damning of all, even when she found that the actions of subordinates had not adhered to a standard that could be defended as not ‘per se political,’ instead of immediately reporting this conduct to victims and appropriate authorities, Lerner engaged in efforts to cover it up,” the report states.
The report also includes dozens of emails between Lerner and her former colleagues that raise serious question about her knowledge of the targeting. For example, several emails show that Lerner received confidential taxpayer information on a non-agency computer system. It appears that she also used her personal email account for many of these exchanges.
“Her willingness to handle this information on a non-official e-mail account highlights her disregard for confidential taxpayer information,” the report states.
In an email chain titled “HMMMM?”, Lerner discussed with her colleagues the possibility of a proposed denial for tax-exempt status going to court.
“[T]hese guys are itching for a Constitutional challenge,” she wrote. “Not your father’s [exempt organization].”
The emails don’t paint a flattering picture of Lerner and her colleagues and imply that top IRS officials were not only politically biased, but aware that what they were doing was highly questionable.
Lerner herself referred to the Tea Party situation as “very dangerous,” at one point forwarding a colleague an article from liberal outlet Mother Jones bemoaning conservative “dark money.”
“Perhaps the [Federal Election Commission] will save the day,” she wrote in an email.
Lerner’s attorney denied the implications of Tuesday’s House report.
“As we have said, the majority has no interest in the facts,” William Taylor said, according to the Washington Post. “The facts interfere with keeping the conspiracy theory alive through the election cycle. It would be interesting to know who with any knowledge of the facts says Ms. Lerner did these things. There is not such a person.”
Lerner at a congressional hearing last week refused to answer Republican House committee chairman Darrell Issa’s questions about her involvement in the targeting, prompting him to abruptly adjourn the session.
Republican lawmakers have for weeks toyed with the idea of bringing contempt charges against Lerner, arguing that an opening statement that she made before pleading the Fifth made her fair game for questioning.
The case built against Lerner in Issa’s Tuesday’s report could eventually lead to contempt charges.
Here’s the full report:
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