Opinion

Justice Department and IRS' Lois Lerner discussed prosecuting conservative groups

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Joel Gehrke,Tea Party,Judicial Watch,IRS,Justice Department,Lois Lerner

Former IRS official Lois Lerner discussed referring conservative groups for prosecution after the Justice Department inquired about possible tax fraud violations by nonprofits.

Lerner and Justice officials discussed the issue pursuant to a suggestion from Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., who called for prosecutions during a Senate hearing in April.

"I got a call today from Richard Pilger Director Elections Crimes Branch at DOJ ... He wanted to know who at IRS the DOJ folk s [sic] could talk to about Sen. Whitehouse idea at the hearing that DOJ could piece together false statement cases about applicants who 'lied' on their 1024s --saying they weren't planning on doing political activity, and then turning around and making large visible political expenditures," Lerner wrote on May 8, 2013, in an email. "DOJ is feeling like it needs to respond, but want to talk to the right folks at IRS to see whether there are impediments from our side and what, if any damage this might do to IRS programs."

Two days later, Lerner would apologize during a speech at the American Bar Association for the targeting of conservative groups.

The internal IRS emails were obtained by Judicial Watch through a lawsuit after the IRS refused to comply with multiple Freedom of Information Act request filed after Lerner's ABA speech.

“These new emails show that the day before she broke the news of the IRS scandal, Lois Lerner was talking to a top Obama Justice Department official about whether the DOJ could prosecute the very same organizations that the IRS had already improperly targeted,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in publicizing the emails. “The IRS emails show Eric Holder's Department of Justice is now implicated and conflicted in the IRS scandal. No wonder we had to sue in federal court to get these documents.”

Emails show that Lerner had previously concluded that the feds were unlikely to be able to prosecute the non-profit groups.

"Whether there was a false statement or fraud regarding an [sic] description of an alleged political expenditure that doesn't say vote for or vote against is not realistic under current law," she wrote on March 27, 2013. "Everyone is looking for a magic bullet or scapegoat -- there isn't one. The law in this area is just hard."

The federal officials wanted to make an example of at least one group. "As I mentioned yesterday -- there are several groups of folks from the FEC world that are pushing tax fraud prosecution for c4s who report they are not conducting political activity when they are (or these folks think they are)," Lerner wrote in another March 27 email obtained by Judicial Watch. "One is my ex-boss Larry Noble (former General Counsel at the FEC), who is now president of Americans for Campaign Reform. This is their latest push to shut these down. One IRS prosecution would make an impact and they wouldn't feel so comfortable doing the stuff."

The House Ways and Means Committee has asked the Justice Department to prosecute Lerner for her involvement in the scandal, and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted to hold her in contempt for refusing to testify about the issue.

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