Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The IRS Scandal, Day 250: FBI Says No Criminal Charges in IRS Probe

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Wall Street Journal:  Criminal Charges Not Expected in IRS Probe:

The Federal Bureau of Investigation doesn't plan to file criminal charges over the Internal Revenue Service's heightened scrutiny of conservative groups, law-enforcement officials said, a move that likely will only intensify debate over the politically charged scandal.

The officials said investigators didn't find the kind of political bias or "enemy hunting" that would amount to a violation of criminal law. Instead, what emerged during the probe was evidence of a mismanaged bureaucracy enforcing rules about tax-exemption applications it didn't understand, according to the law-enforcement officials.

While the case is still being investigated and could remain open for months, officials familiar with its progress said it is increasingly unlikely any criminal charges will result. That could change, the officials cautioned, if unexpected evidence is discovered that alters their thinking.

With this year's midterm elections heating up, the FBI's decision will feed both parties' stories about why—or whether—the IRS scandal mattered. ...

The FBI explored a number of possible violations, including those involving statutes within the IRS code that prohibit the misuse or improper disclosure of taxpayer information. Another area examined was whether any IRS officials lied about what happened and the reasons for it. The people familiar with the probe wouldn't say who was interviewed.

The probe has been freighted with political suspicions. Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who has represented about a dozen groups that faced such IRS questioning, said the FBI has yet to contact her clients over the issue. "As far as I can tell, nobody has actually done an investigation. This has been a big, bureaucratic, former-Soviet-Union-type investigation, which means that there was no investigation," she said. "This is a deplorable abuse of the public trust, but I am not surprised."

Wall Street Journal editorial:  The IRS Gets a Pass:

President Obama continues to express puzzlement that the public holds government in such low esteem—in some polls, lower than it's ever been. Maybe one reason is the report Monday evening in the Journal that law enforcement officials say the FBI plans to bring no criminal charges in the IRS targeting of conservative political groups.

The story by Devlin Barrett says that investigators found no political bias but instead merely bureaucratic mismanagement. We'd be willing to credit that conclusion if there were more evidence that anyone did much of an investigation. Congressional probers say FBI director James Comey has refused to provide details about the resources it has devoted to the probe, though such basic information would not interfere with the investigation. Cleta Mitchell, a prominent lawyer who represents several conservative groups that applied for tax-exempt status, reports that the FBI hasn't contacted any of her clients. That's like investigating a burglary without interviewing the burgled.

Not every scandal is a crime, but if the report is right it means no one will be held accountable in any meaningful way for the misuse of the taxing power of the state. This is why Americans don't trust government.

New York Post editorial:  The ‘Crime’ of the IRS:

Only days after we learned the Obama administration had appointed an Obama donor to head investigations into the IRS targeting of conservative organizations, we now have a leak from law enforcement saying the FBI doesn’t expect to file criminal charges. ...

Without the evidence, we’re not in a position to say. But criminal liability never been our priority. All along our position has been that federal agencies such as the IRS should be held accountable the way the Founders intended: through our democratic system. For the IRS outrages extend well beyond the targeting of individuals and groups opposed to President Obama’s agenda. High on that list is the way the woman at the center of this storm, Lois Lerner, basically took her own version of the Fifth at hearings, telling Congress she’d done nothing wrong but wasn’t planning on saying anything else.

Maybe the FBI is right, that it’s just all a big misunderstanding, that IRS officials were only at the White House for Easter Egg rolls. Even so, our Constitution doesn’t leave accountability to the judgement of the FBI. To the contrary, our system holds that the American people, through their elected representatives in Congress, have the right to know what their government is doing.

In short, if the threat of criminal charges has in fact been removed, there’s no more excuse for Lois Lerner not to tell us, under oath, what she was apparently afraid to say in May.

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One of Chris Christie's aides caused heavy traffic on a bridge. As with the IRS scandal, there is no evidence that the Chris Christie bridge scandal rises to the level of the executive.

Posted by: Chris Christie | Jan 14, 2014 3:05:32 PM

This should come as no surprise. It's a family affair. Would you expect your cousin to rat you out? BTW, check the FBI's fact sheet now. It has shifted from law enforcement to national security. Stasi by any other name.

Posted by: robertsgt40 | Jan 14, 2014 1:08:17 PM

Can you post a link to the IRS where we can go to file a complain about their new regulation legalizing their treatment of the Conservatives and Tea Party groups? I understand there is a February 27th deadline to filing such a complaint.

Posted by: JoyO | Jan 14, 2014 12:06:50 PM