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Six Things We Learned From Politico's New Interview With Lois Lerner


“I’m doing just fine.”

Former IRS official Lois Lerner (Image source: AP)

Lois Lerner isn't sorry.

The disgraced former director of the IRS' tax-exempt organizations unit sat for an "exclusive two-hour session" with Politico — during which she was flanked by her lawyer husband and two other attorneys — and the resulting article was published Monday morning.

The 63-year-old apparently didn't say much over the course of those two hours.

FILE - This May 22, 2013 file photo shows Internal Revenue Service (IRS) official Lois Lerner on Capitol Hill in Washington. The IRS says it has lost a trove of emails to and from a central figure in the agency's tea party controversy. The IRS told congressional investigators Friday it cannot locate many of Lois Lerner's emails prior to 2011 because her computer crashed that year. Lerner headed the IRS division that processed applications for tax-exempt status. The IRS acknowledged last year that agents had improperly scrutinized applications for tax-exempt status by tea party and other conservative groups. The IRS was able to generate 24,000 Lerner emails from 2009 to 2011 because Lerner had copied in other IRS employees. But an untold number are gone. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File) AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File This May 22, 2013 file photo shows IRS official Lois Lerner on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Depending on how you count them, the article contains about 37 full-quoted sentences, with fewer than half of those (15) coming from Lerner (and three more coming from her emails).

Still, the woman who put a face on the IRS' admitted targeting of conservative groups revealed a few things in the interview.

1. She didn't know much about taxes before she started working at the IRS.

From Politico:

Lerner started her career far away from tax policy, as a dental hygienist. She quickly switched gears and went to law school, graduating cum laude. After a stint at the Justice Department, she spent 20 years at the FEC before heading to the IRS in 2001.

Her start was rocky at the tax agency, where employees scoffed at her lack of knowledge of tax law and IRS operations. Some gossiped behind her back; one boss dismissed her ideas in meetings, according to former co-workers.


Marc Owens, who had Lerner’s position at the IRS during the 1990s, thinks her limited tax knowledge may have contributed to the tea party incident: “When managers are not familiar with the laws they are enforcing, they make bad decisions.”

2. She retired from the IRS, but her pension is higher than the average working American makes.

“I’m doing just fine,” Lerner told Politico.

"Just fine" indeed: The article noted that Lerner and her husband, a tax attorney, live in a $2.5 million-Bethesda, Maryland, mansion and that Lerner is still raking in a $100,000 annual pension from the government since retiring amid the firestorm.

For a comparison, the median household income in Maryland was around $71,000 in 2012, according to Census Bureau stats, and the U.S. median was around $51,000.

3. She can't find a new job.

The article described her as "untouchable" because of the IRS scandal, and while she wants to work, she has to settle for volunteering for an arts group and walking dogs.

4. She said she definitely didn't delete her emails.

Much of Lerner's professional correspondence is unavailable, after a conveniently timed computer crash wiped more than two years' worth of her emails.

Lerner promised that she didn't orchestrate the crash herself.

“How would I know two years ahead of time that it would be important for me to destroy emails, and if I did know that, why wouldn’t I have destroyed the other ones they keep releasing?” Lerner said, referencing the handful of her emails that have been the object of public scrutiny.

5. She won't hide.

From Politico:

She’s defiant […] saying she’s “not going to let [critics] ruin my life.”

[Lerner and her husband] refuse to move from their home. And when Lerner leaves the house, she doesn’t try to hide by wearing sunglasses or a headscarf, though “someone told me maybe I should get a blond wig.”

Of course, that also means she can’t escape public humiliation when she is recognized. She’s been berated by strangers and told she is “going to be put away in the deepest, darkest dungeon, and they were going to lock me up and throw away the key.”

Image: Royal Poinciana Playhouse Image: Royal Poinciana Playhouse

6. She won't apologize or admit she did anything wrong.

“Regardless of whatever else happens, I know I did the best I could under the circumstances and am not sorry for anything I did,” Lerner told Politico.

While her emails clearly denigrated conservative groups, and she's a registered Democrat, Lerner claimed that she never allowed politics to play a role in her professional decisions, saying, "My personal opinions have never affected my work."

Read Politico's full story here.

UPDATE: Two prominent House Republicans condemned Lerner for speaking to Politico after she pleaded the Fifth Amendment in front of Congress.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who has had many contentious committee interactions with Lerner, tweeted his disappointment in her decision to speak to the media but not to Congress — and he questioned whether justice would ever be served.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’s Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Job Creation and Regulatory Affairs, called the interview "a poke in the eye to the American citizens"

“Ms. Lerner’s desire to play the victim to the press while refusing to answer questions about her conduct from Congress underscores why the House of Representatives held her in contempt," Jordan wrote in a statement. "There are many unanswered questions, and her recent statements to the press answer none of them while suggesting that she has the answers."

Jordan called for the Justice Department to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Lerner.

Follow Zach Noble (@thezachnoble) on Twitter

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