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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The IRS Scandal, Day 306

SilenceSan Francisco Chronicle:  The Silence of the Tax Lamb, by Debra Saunders:

Former IRS official Lois Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment right on Wednesday not to incriminate herself when she testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the IRS targeting of Tea Party groups.

Oddly, the news media and Democratic leaders don't think it's a big deal when a federal official - Lerner was the head of the IRS tax-exempt unit when she first invoked the Fifth last May - won't answer questions about her actions as a federal official. ...

Just what was Lerner doing on the taxpayer dime that she doesn't want to share?

Lerner's silence is especially unsettling given that her attorney, William Taylor III, told reporters that Lerner had given a full interview to the Department of Justice with no grant of immunity. Lerner's lawyers, he said, have confidence that prosecutors, unlike Issa, are open-minded. ...

"It does strike me as a little odd," Rutgers law Professor George Thomas III told the Wall Street Journal. "One explanation is the one given by her lawyer. The other, darker explanation is that she and her lawyer think that DOJ is not interested in a serious investigation of the IRS treatment of these tax-exempt groups."

Could it be that Lerner's lawyers do not fear the often-terrifying Justice Department precisely because President Obama already signaled there is no cause for concern because the IRS story is a "phony scandal"?

Similarly, the president signaled his disdain for conservative nonprofits during the 2010 and 2012 election seasons. Lo and behold, the IRS started to put conservative tax-exempt organizations on the slow track and under a microscope.

Last year, Lerner admitted that after the IRS saw an uptick in applications for social-welfare organizations in 2010, staff began screening for groups that used words like "Tea Party" or "Patriots." She even apologized. "That was wrong, that was absolutely incorrect, insensitive and inappropriate - that's not how we go about selecting cases for further review," Lerner said.

She also claimed that IRS staffers did not target Tea Party patriot types "because of any political bias. They did it because they were working together. This was a streamlined way for them to refer to the cases."

That is, it was convenient.

I do not believe that claim. I don't know many liberals who actually believe it either. I do believe that if the Bush administration IRS targeted social-welfare groups that used terms like "antiwar" and "torture," the left would want to investigate. They'd want to know if the IRS policy came from the White House. And they wouldn't give a pass to officials who took the Fifth.

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Comments

The really "odd" thing in the Lerner matter is why Chairman Issa doesn't offer immunity. The standard operating procedure in a situation like this--the investigators strongly believe that the non-cooperating witness would implicate higher-ups--is to grant immunity to the lower-level witness. Give Lerner immunity in exchange for her full and frank testimony. Makes me wonder if Chairman Issa really wants Lerner's full and frank testimony.

Posted by: Publius Novus | Mar 11, 2014 7:13:52 AM

An objective, comprehensive investigation aims at factual development. The Chairman's choice not to offer immunity raises a question: why not use this tool to obtain comprehensive factual development?

Posted by: Tenn Volunteer | Mar 11, 2014 7:42:19 AM

Lerner wasn't offered immunity for the simple reason they don't feel they need it. They will eventually find out the truth, the lies are unraveling as we speak, further immunity is no guaranty Lerner won't continue to be evasive, hide evidence and lie.

Posted by: constitution first | Mar 11, 2014 8:40:35 AM

The IRS was already challenging various liberal organizations for getting too political. The Tparty brand was newly popular and obviously political.

Posted by: john rooney | Mar 12, 2014 5:11:28 AM