(Washington, DC) - The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which represents dozens of organizations in a federal lawsuit challenging the IRS, said today a decision by the Justice Department not to prosecute former top IRS official Lois Lerner for contempt of Congress is “troubling but not surprising” and underscores the fact that the DOJ is “making a mockery of our criminal justice system.”
“It is troubling but not surprising that the Justice Department will not seek criminal contempt charges against former top IRS official Lois Lerner,” said Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the ACLJ. “This latest development reflects what has become standard operating procedure for the Obama Administration in its so-called investigation of this unlawful targeting scheme by the IRS. One year ago, the Justice Department refused to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the unconstitutional actions of Lerner and others at the IRS. Now, by refusing to pursue criminal contempt charges against Lerner - who proclaimed her innocence before a Congressional panel and then later refused to answer questions citing her Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate herself - the Justice Department is making a mockery of our criminal justice system. This is just one more example of an administration that refuses to hold anyone accountable for a scheme that unlawfully targeted conservative groups.”
In a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen said he would not bring a criminal case to a grand jury over Lerner’s refusal to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in March 2014. Two months later, the House approved a criminal contempt resolution against Lerner.
Lerner proclaimed her innocence at a House hearing in May 2013 before invoking her Fifth Amendment right to not incriminate herself. However, Machen said DOJ lawyers determined that Lerner “did not waive her Fifth Amendment right by making an opening statement…”
In March 2014, the Justice Department declined to appoint a special prosecutor, concluding the case doesn’t present a conflict of interest or “other extraordinary circumstances.”
But in February 2015, the IRS Inspector General acknowledged that a criminal investigation is now underway into Lerner’s emails. In testimony before the House Oversight Committee, Deputy Inspector General Timothy P. Camus said “there is potential criminal activity” after discovering hundreds of back-up tapes that could include more of Lerner’s emails that were reported missing. The back-up tapes, according to Camus, were retrieved in early February 2015 after the IRS chief told Congress that they were irretrievably destroyed.
In its federal lawsuit, the ACLJ originally represented 41 organizations in 22 states. Three of those organizations have now decided to end their involvement in the case because of the lengthy appeals process. Of the 38 groups remaining, 29 organizations received tax-exempt status after lengthy delays, 2 are still pending, and 7 withdrew applications because of frustration with the IRS process.
Led by Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), focusing on constitutional law, is based in Washington, D.C.
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