Former Attorney General Eric Holder, whose departure from office was preceded by Justice Department scandals, including spying on news reporters and allowing weapons to be delivered to Mexican drug cartels, now is harshly criticizing IRS actions.
He’s unhappy about the apologies the IRS issued to tea-party groups that came under unconstitutional scrutiny by the Internal Revenue Service as part of an effort to curb their participation in the 2012 election, when they opposed Barack Obama’s policies.
WND reported last month that yet another court rebuked the IRS for its targeting of conservative groups.
But now, as the Washington Times reports, Holder says the targeted organizations deserved no apology for the infringement of their constitutional rights.
He claims the apology amounted to the Trump administration “undercutting career people” at the Justice Department.
Those “career people” may be members of the “deep state,” career bureaucrats undercutting the Trump administration about whom Franklin Graham, the CEO and president of Samaritan’s Purse, has warned.
Holder stated: “That apology was unnecessary, unfounded and inconsistent, it seems to me, with the responsibilities that somebody who would seek to lead the Justice Department should have done.”
He ordered a criminal investigation after an inspector general revealed in 2013 that the IRS was delaying the applications of conservative groups for tax-exempt status. But he said there was no actual criminal activity, only bungling, on the part of the Treasury Department agency.
WND reported in January that in a consent decree settling a case against the IRS brought by the voter-integrity non-profit True the Vote, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton declared “discrimination on the basis of political viewpoint in administering the United States tax code violates fundamental First Amendment rights.”
“Disparate treatment of taxpayers based solely on the taxpayers’ names, any lawful position the taxpayers espouse on any issues, or the taxpayers’ associations or perceived associations with a particular political movement, position, or viewpoint is unlawful,” the judge said.
Catherine Engelbrecht, founder of True the Vote, said the consent decree is a starting point for needed reforms.
“Our consent decree is a stringent admonishment of the IRS’s admitted discrimination, but much more is needed to ensure that IRS employees engaging in unconstitutional conduct will face real, actionable penalties,” she said.
“We are working together with Senator John Cornyn, who will introduce legislation to ensure the rights of Americans are protected from rogue government employees whose discrimination and abuse has now been well documented in our court case.”
The IRS was sued a number of times and investigated by Congress after the director of the IRS Exempt Organizations division at the time, Lois Lerner, publicly admitted her employees delayed the applications of conservative groups for tax-exempt status.
The IRS specifically targeted groups with “tea party” or “conservative” in their names.
It wasn’t the first time the IRS was rebuked over the issue by a court. WND reported late last year the IRS issued a formal apology and reached a $3.5 million settlement with a coalition of conservative organizations.
Several individuals and groups that were victimized by the IRS then called for the reopening of a criminal investigation into Lerner’s activities.
WND reported the IRS apologized for the Obama administration’s manipulation of the feared federal agency to target conservative organizations when Obama was seeking re-election.
“For such treatment, the IRS expresses its sincere apology,” the agency said in the earlier consent order to resolve a number of lawsuits against the government brought by the injured organizations.
The IRS tax-exempt division admitted it deliberately delayed action on groups that opposed Obama’s agenda, which included state-controlled health care, abortion and same-sex marriage.
However, the IRS apology is insufficient for some.
The Washington Examiner reported Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., called for the Department of Justice to review whether or not it should prosecute Lerner.
He’s chairman of the oversight subcommittee responsible for the IRS.
“Lerner betrayed the nation’s trust yet managed to avoid prosecution,” Buchanan said. “Heads should roll and people should be held accountable for this gross abuse of power.”
Leesa Donner of the Liberty Nation blog, one of the targeted groups, commented on the apparent settlement.
“It seems that IRS Senior Executive Lois G. Lerner is in the crosshairs again,” Donner wrote.
“And for many who have been persecuted by the most powerful agency of the most powerful government in the world – this comes not a moment too soon.”
The IRS used tactics such as demanding donor lists, copies of communications, Internet passwords, and personal political and charitable activities of officers and their family members.
In one case, the IRS demanded to know the subject of group members’ prayers. And in another, the IRS demanded that members stop opposing the Planned Parenthood abortion industry.