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HomeNewsPoliticsLerner Initially ‘Willing To Take Blame’ In IRS Emails, Misled Senate Interviewers

Lerner Initially ‘Willing To Take Blame’ In IRS Emails, Misled Senate Interviewers

lois lerner
lois lerner

Lois Lerner, former head of the IRS unit that decides whether to grant tax-exempt status to groups, listens on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 22, 2013. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The government watchdog group Judicial Watch obtained IRS emails reveal Lois Lerner was “willing to take the blame” for the inappropriate targeting of Tea Party and other conservative groups. However, as was the case in previously obtained emails, Lerner was well-aware of how the targeting practice “might raise questions” and attempted to keep information from Congress and investigators from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).

“These new emails show that the IRS scandal is not over,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “These documents point to document gaps caused by the refusal of the Obama IRS to search for Lois Lerner’s emails. The incredible email from Lois Lerner admitting (and denying) culpability by her and the IRS in the scandal further undermines President Obama’s lie that the IRS scandal was entirely the fault of ‘bonehead decisions in local offices.’”

President Obama had claimed during a previous interview with Bill O’Reilly that there was “not even a smidgen of corruption” involved at the IRS.

“That’s not what happened,” Obama told O’Reilly when asked if mass corruption was at play. “There were some bone-headed decisions. Not even mass corruption. Not even a smidgen of corruption.”

However, according to newly obtained emails, including an email from Lerner in February 2012 asking that a program be set up to “put together some training points to help them [IRS staffers] understand the potential pitfalls” of revealing too much information to Congress, clearly suggest otherwise.

An email exchange between Lois Lerner and other top IRS staffers dated May 1, 2013, which was just 11 days before the planted the question at an ABA meeting first brought the scandal public, revealed she met with interviewers from the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee in a “marathon” meeting. The purpose of the interview was to discuss concerns raised by both Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., concerning whether and how the IRS was reining in political advocacy groups in response to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

Sen. McCain’s office has yet to answer a request for comment regarding the meeting. But at least the IRS (and perhaps others) did not want the notes from Wednesday, May 1, 2013 referred to by Sinno Suzanne [IRS Legislative Counsel] in an email to Lerner and others, to be viewed.

“I also took notes so I can compare and make sure we captured everything,” Suzanne said, yet the notes are blacked out.

McCain, the chief sponsor of the McCain-Feingold Act, called the Citizens United decision one of the “worst decisions I have ever seen.” Considering those attending the meeting were key aides to the then-committee minority ranking member, John McCain, the blacking out of the notes doesn’t pass the smell test. Still, in a previous statement released by the Arizona senator in 2013, McCain claimed Lerner omitted information and misled the interviewers during the 6-hour long meeting on April 30, 2013.

“Ms. Lerner failed to disclose the internal controversy over the search terms used by the Cincinnati office to identify 501(c)(4) groups for further review, the actions taken by that office in reviewing the identified groups, the investigation and imminent findings by the Treasury Department Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA); and TIGTA’s conclusion that the IRS had used inappropriate criteria to target Tea Party and other conservative groups,” McCain said in a statement. “Ms. Lerner also failed to disclose that she was fully aware of these issues as early as June 2011, and, according to TIGTA, had been personally involved in reviewing questionable actions taken by the Cincinnati office.”

The latest round of documents were obtained under court order as a result of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit seeking information regarding the Obama IRS’ abuses (Judicial Watch v. IRS (No. 1:13-cv-1559). The ongoing lawsuit has helped to debunk what is now known to be a blatantly false claim by the administration that the targeting originated from a field office in Cincinnati.

Previous emails obtained, including one dated Feb. 29, 2012, revealed that the Exempt Organizations (EO), which is located in Washington D.C., had been approving the process of reviewing 501(c)4 tax-exempt applications and the BOLOs (Be On The Look Out).

In fact, Lerner practically begged her then-supervisor Joseph Grant not to visit the Cincinnati office or ask specific questions pertaining to congressional inquiries. The previous round helps to understand the frantic and somewhat incoherent behavior from Lerner observed in these latest emails. It would appear that Lerner did an about-face when it became clear that investigators were serious.

“We understand why the criteria might raise questions….So, I’m not sure how they [TIGTA] investigators are looking at we were politically motivated, or what they are looking for with regard to targeting,” Lerner wrote to TIGTA investigator Troy Paterson on Jan. 31, 2013. “I am willing to take the blame for not having provided sufficient direction initially.”

When it became clear that TIGTA was buying her “difference between IRS acting in a politically motivated manner and front line staff people using less than stellar judgment,” she changed her tune.

The House voted in May, 2014 to hold Lerner in contempt and referred her to the Justice Department for prosecution, resulting in her resignation on Sept. 24, 2013. Yet, on the same day Attorney General Eric Holder’s office announced corruption charges against administration critic and fellow-Democrat Sen. Bob Menendez, they also announced they would not be bring charges against the former IRS official at the heart of the Tea Party targeting scandal.

The development, however outrageous to many, was also not too much of a surprise considering the Justice Department appointed an Obama donor to head up the probe. In a letter dated Jan. 8, 2014 to Attorney General Eric Holder, lawmakers said the probe had been “compromised” by Barbara Kay Bosserman, the trial attorney appointed to investigate the IRS scandal. Bosserman is a long-term donor of both the Democratic National Committee and President Obama.

Written by

Rich, the People's Pundit, is the Data Journalism Editor at PPD and Director of the PPD Election Projection Model. He is also the Director of Big Data Poll, and author of "Our Virtuous Republic: The Forgotten Clause in the American Social Contract."

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