WASHINGTON — Tea-party leaders and lawmakers are flabbergasted over the latest bombshell revelation in the IRS scandal – that ex-IRS official Lois Lerner was discussing with the Department of Justice a strategy to criminally prosecute conservative groups.
"The DOJ's credibility to investigate the IRS scandal is gone," declared Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. "We need an independent special prosecutor!"
Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., told WND, "With each new revelation about the extent the IRS went, and wanted to go, to target conservative and tea-party groups, the level of corruption keeps getting worse.”
As WND reported Wednesday, emails obtained by Judicial Watch show that Lerner, the former head of the IRS' tax-exempt division, was exploring a plan with Eric Holder's Justice Department to conduct a criminal investigation into tea-party groups over their political activity.
However, on May 10, 2013, just a few short days after arranging to meet with the Justice Department, Lerner publicly admitted her department had improperly scrutinized tea-party and other conservative groups. Later that month, Lerner refused to answer questions before Congress about the improper targeting. She did the same thing almost one year later, on March 5, 2014.
For key members of the House Oversight Committee, which has been investigating the scandal for a year, the revelation about Lerner's coordination with the DOJ appeared to confirm some of their worst suspicions.
Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said the documents underscore the political nature of tea-party targeting by the IRS and the extent to which supposedly nonpartisan officials took direction from elected Democrats.
“These e-mails are part of an overwhelming body of evidence that political pressure from prominent Democrats led to the targeting of Americans for their political beliefs,” declared Issa.
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said it showed why the IRS is scared to give up the rest of Lois Lerner's emails.
He also claimed the e-mails further proved coordination among the IRS, the Federal Election Commission, the Justice Department and committee Democrats to target conservatives.
Jordan now believes, had the committee not requested an investigation by the Treasury Department's Inspector General, then "Eric Holder’s politicized Justice Department would likely have been leveling trumped up criminal charges against tea-party groups to intimidate them from exercising their constitutional rights."
Oversight Committee member Mark Meadows, R-N.C., echoed that concern about the Justice Department, saying the revelations "seriously call into question DOJ's credibility."
Reaction was also swift from one of Lerner's main targets, the Tea Party Patriots, a national grassroots coalition with at least 3,400 locally organized chapters and more than 15 million supporters nationwide.
WND asked Tea Party Patriots President and Co-founder Jenny Beth Martin for her reaction to Lerner's specific inquiry to the DOJ about whether tax-exempt groups could be criminally prosecuted for "lying" about political activity.
"We were not engaged in political activity," Martin told WND. "The fact they were claiming groups were lying is another way to target and intimidate us and adds credibility to the appearance that they coordinated with Senate Democrats to silence us."
Martin noted that Lerner has been referred to the Justice Department for criminal investigation and is awaiting a full House vote on contempt charges.
Washington attorney Cleta Mitchell, who represents Tea Party Patriots, told WND that she is particularly outraged at where the conversation originated, with Sen. Shelden Whitehouse, D-R.I., asking the DOJ to prosecute groups.
"Basically using the federal government to silence political foes. That is where it started," said Mitchell. "He should be the person called out here for starting to sic the DOJ and IRS on these groups. Terrible."
The revelations made Martin wonder how far the Obama administration would go to silence groups like the Tea Party Patriots.
"Local leaders around the country and I have said we were very concerned as we answered the abusive, intrusive, Nixonian questions the IRS asked for fear we may get something incorrect and we were signing those documents under penalty of perjury," she said. "These efforts to subvert our personal freedom of speech is astonishing."
She vowed not to be bullied or threatened into silence.
"We will continue to speak out. This kind of abuse of power and government overreach is why the modern-day tea party started, and we will continue to stand for personal freedom until those in Washington learn to cherish it again."
Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, told WND this latest revelation is a symptom of a larger problem, what he calls a culture of corruption rotting throughout liberalism.
"Under liberalism, tax laws have become a weapon to control behavior and punish those with differing ideas," observed the Texan.
Stockman said liberals view government as a tool of retribution that should be used to suppress dissent.
"The only way to clean up government is to prosecute corrupt liberal activists like Lerner," he said.
He also recommended dismantling the tools liberals use to suppress dissenting ideas, implying the solution is to abolish the IRS.