WASHINGTON – The government watchdog group Judicial Watch has struck again, discovering Lois Lerner, former IRS tax-exempt division chief, had discussed possible criminal prosecution of conservative groups with Justice Department officials two years before what the agency had conceded.
Lerner met with Department of Justice officials in October 2010, just before the November midterm elections. Amid the rise of the tea-party groups targeted by Lerner, Republicans in the 2010 elections gained the most seats in the House since 1948.
Judicial Watch used a Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, request to obtain the documents but had to go to court to force the DOJ to release the material.
One document shows a DOJ official with the Election Crimes Division of the Public Integrity Section of the DOJ’s Criminal Division setting up a meeting with a “Ms. Ingram.”
Judicial Watch said it was an apparent reference to Sarah Hall Ingram, former commissioner of IRS Tax Exempt and Government Entities. The unnamed DOJ official was Richard Pilger, director of the Election Crimes Division.
The email was also forwarded to DOJ Public Integrity Section Chief Jack Smith and Principal Deputy Chief Raymond Hulser. According to the documents, Ingram was not available but arranged for her deputy, Lerner, to meet with the DOJ senior officials.
On April 16, 2014, Judicial Watch forced the IRS to release documents revealing Lerner communicated with the DOJ in May 2013 about the possibility of criminally prosecuting tax-exempt groups. In the emails, Lerner discussed the possibility with Nikole Flax, then-chief of staff to then-acting IRS Commissioner Steven T. Miller, and made plans to prosecute nonprofit groups she claimed had “lied” about political activities.
In testimony before the House Oversight Committee, Pilger admitted DOJ officials met with Lerner in October 2010.
Additionally, congressional investigators found another Lerner email that showed the IRS had sent the FBI and DOJ a “1.1 million page database of information from 501(c)(4) tax exempt organizations” containing confidential taxpayer information.
When it became apparent congressional investigators were becoming aware of the IRS targeting of conservative groups, in May 2013, Lerner admitted, in answer to a planted question, those actions were “absolutely incorrect, insensitive and inappropriate.”
Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said the new documents “show how the Justice Department is up to its neck in the IRS scandal and can’t be trusted to investigate crimes associated with the IRS abuses that targeted Obama’s critics.”
“And it is of particular concern that the DOJ’s Public Integrity Section, which would ordinarily investigate the IRS abuses, is now implicated in the IRS crimes. No wonder the Department of Justice under Eric Holder has done no serious investigation of the Obama IRS scandal,” he said.
Judicial Watch said the DOJ is still refusing to provide at least 832 pages of documents, claiming “taxpayer privacy” and “deliberative privilege.”