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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1561: Why Hasn't Trump Drained The IRS/DOJ Swamp?

IRS Logo 2Wall Street Journal:  Trump’s IRS Swamp: Obama-era Lawyers Are Still Obstructing Lawsuits to Hold the Agency Accountable, by Kimberley A. Strassel:

Donald Trump promised to drain the swamp, and here’s a seven-month progress report: The Washington bog is still as wide and fetid as ever. Consider that Mr. Trump’s Justice Department has inexplicably continued to defend the IRS’s misdeeds under President Obama.

Voters put a Republican in the White House in part to impose some belated accountability on the scandal-laden Obama administration. And the supreme scandal was the IRS’s assault on tea-party groups—a campaign inspired by congressional Democrats, perpetrated by partisan bureaucrats like Lois Lerner, and covered up by Mr. Obama’s political appointees. This abuse stripped the right to political speech from thousands of Americans over two election cycles. To this day, no one has answered for it.

The groups targeted are still doggedly trying to obtain justice through lawsuits that have dragged on for years. They believed Mr. Trump’s election would bring an end to the government obstruction. It hasn’t. “The posture of the DOJ and the IRS under the Trump administration is identical to the posture under the Obama administration,” Mark Meckler, president of Citizens for Self-Governance, tells me. “Nothing has changed.” ...

The problem is that the same old Obama-era lawyers have been left to run these cases in the same old hostile ways. Who are these people? Laura Beckerman, one of the lead lawyers defending the IRS in the Ohio class action, left government only this month. Her LinkedIn profile says she is now pro bono coordinating counsel at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. CREW is among the most liberal outfits in the capital, fanatically devoted to taking down conservatives. That’s the type still calling the shots in Mr. Trump’s bureaucracy.

The Justice Department’s job is to defend the government, but it is also supposed to pursue justice. And there is no question the IRS did wrong. It has been documented by the Treasury Department’s inspector general and admitted by the IRS itself. It’d be one thing if the plaintiffs were demanding a billion-dollar payout, but they aren’t. Their main request is that the IRS come clean on what happened, and the government is resisting with all its power. The real question is why the Justice Department is even fighting this suit, when it ought to be leading a renewed investigation into what happened and how it got covered up.

It’s time for some judgment. Senior leaders in the Justice Department may be wary of replacing or redirecting attorneys on the IRS cases, fearing it might provoke another round of media caterwauling. The White House may be wary of canning Mr. Koskinen, thinking it would be cast as another high-profile firing. But Mr. Trump was hired to impose exactly that sort of accountability. If he’s going to get rapped for dramatic moves, it might as well be for doing something that serves justice.

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