Of course, you can’t censure federal bureaucrats for their crimes if you don’t even try. On September 8, Donald Trump’s Justice Department announced it would not be reopening an investigation into the conduct of Lois Lerner, the IRS official responsible for targeting and harassing conservative groups in the 2010 and 2012 elections. That investigation had ended in 2015, when Barack Obama’s Justice Department stated it would not be charging Lerner or anyone else at the IRS because it “found no evidence that any IRS official acted based on political, discriminatory, corrupt or other inappropriate motives that would support a criminal prosecution.”
Lerner herself admitted “absolutely inappropriate” targeting had taken place but blamed it on “front-line people.” Soon after, she pleaded the Fifth in testimony to a congressional committee and was placed on administrative leave by the IRS. Emails later confirmed Lerner had a strong personal bias against conservatives (she called them “crazies” and “a—holes”), and there was an extensive and credible series of accusations that she harassed conservative groups when she worked for the Federal Election Commission in the 1990s. If all this doesn’t suggest motive and criminality, it’s still an outrage that Lerner, whose leave was never revoked, eventually retired from the IRS with a full and generous pension.
The promise of the Trump administration, especially in contrast to Hillary Clinton’s flagrant disregard of classification laws, was a return to accountability. Jeff Sessions, a man committed to judicial integrity, was supposed to be just the man to restore respect for the rule of law. But the attorney general seems to be missing in action. The House Ways and Means Committee asked the Justice Department earlier this year to reexamine Lerner’s case. Committee chairman Kevin Brady told the Washington Post that the department’s decision to decline “sends the message that the same legal, ethical, and constitutional standards we all live by do not apply to Washington political appointees,” who “now have the green light to target Americans for their political beliefs and mislead investigators without ever being held accountable for their lawlessness.”
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