Responding to newly exposed internal IRS emails that show Democrat collusion with the agency to target her tea party group and impede an investigation, True the Vote President Catherine Engelbrecht told WND she won’t be intimidated by what she calls attacks by the current administration.
“I will not retreat, I will not surrender, I will not be intimidated. I will not ask Elijah Cummings, Lois Lerner, Barack Obama or anyone else for permission to exercise my constitutional rights,” Engelbrecht said in a statement to WND.
Cummings, D-Md., the ranking member of the House Government Oversight and Reform Committee, has denied his staff ever contacted the IRS about True the Vote. But the emails show that the IRS and Cummings’ staff communicated multiple times in 2012 and 2013 about True the Vote and asked the non-profit for nearly identical information.
Lerner, the former director of the agency’s tax-exempt unit, could face up to five years in prison if she is found guilty of disclosing confidential taxpayer information to the Democrat lawmaker’s staff, according to federal privacy laws referenced by the committee.
The committee voted Thursday 21-12, on a party-line vote, to hold Lerner in contempt after hours of heated debate. The measure will be put before the full House and, if approved, will head to the courts. House Speaker John Boehner believes the House will support the contempt measure unless Lerner agrees to cooperate with the investigation.
WND reported Wednesday that Cummings received a letter from the chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and five subcommittee chairmen demanding an explanation for his staff’s queries.
“No more lies. No more cover-ups. No more collusion. Enough is enough,” Engelbrecht told WND.
“Finally, we have a chance for the rule of law to be reestablished, thanks to the bold efforts of Chairman Issa and Representative (Jim) Jordan.”
Engelbrecht said the committee’s action Wednesday “reveals what we knew all along.”
“Partisan politics and the weaponization of government against opponents of this Administration is real and continues,” she said.
Engelbrecht said Cummings “has blocked the IRS abuse investigation all along.”
“We now see clearly that two branches of government have colluded to target and silence private citizens,” she said. “America has come to a tipping point.”
Englebrecht told WND that True the Vote is amending an ethics complaint it filed against Cummings in February to include the latest revelation.
A 2010 Talking Points Memo story reported the White House and House Democratic congressional leadership recommended Cummings for the ranking member position over the senior Democrat on the committee, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., to “be a bulldog who can stand toe-to-toe” with then-incoming Issa.
Engelbrecht’s attorney, Cleta Mitchell, told WND/Radio America in an interview Thursday there’s no paper trail at this point that takes the investigation into the White House, but President Obama clearly inspired the mistreatment of conservative groups with his public comments. Listen to that interview below:
Knocking at my door
In testimony before the House Oversight Committee in February, Engelbrecht said she was directly harassed and intimidated by Cummings on several occasions, violating strict anti-stalking and harassment laws in Cumming’s own state of Maryland.
“Shortly after filing IRS forms to establish 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) tax-exempt organizations, an assortment of federal entities – including law enforcement agencies and a congressman from Maryland, Elijah Cummings – came knocking at my door,” she said in February’s testimony.
Engelbrecht testified that many people in her position would have backed down from Cummings and the IRS out of fear, but she refused to give in.
“Three times, Representative Elijah Cummings sent letters to True the Vote, demanding much of the same information that the IRS had requested," she said. "Hours after sending letters, he would appear on cable news and publicly defame me and my organization. Such tactics are unacceptable."
Engelbrecht said that in "nearly two decades of running our small business, my husband and I never dealt with any government agency, outside of filing our annual tax returns."
"We had never been audited, we had never been investigated, but all that changed upon submitting applications for the non-profit statuses of True the Vote and King Street Patriots," she testified. "Since that filing in 2010, my private businesses, my nonprofit organizations, and family have been subjected to more than 15 instances of audit or inquiry by federal agencies."
At the February hearing, Cummings denied any wrongdoing and said he could "assure" Engelbrecht that he did not direct anyone at the IRS to scrutinize her.
However, a letter to Cummings from Issa and five subcommittee chairmen yesterday told the congressman that while "you have previously denied that your staff made inquiries to the IRS about conservative organization True the Vote that may have led to additional agency scrutiny, communication records between your staff and IRS officials – which you did not disclose to Majority Members or staff – indicates otherwise."
The letter said that as the committee is scheduled "to consider a resolution holding Ms. Lerner, a participant in responding to your communications that you failed to disclose, in contempt of Congress, you have an obligation to fully explain your staff’s undisclosed contacts with the IRS."