The intimidation game, cont’d

Paul Mirengoff covered the Department of Justice’s September 8 reiteration of its decision not to prosecute Lois Lerner. Paul noted the absence of a rejoinder to the stated conclusion that the department lacked sufficient evidence to bring a case against Lerner. I hate cliches, but the more things change…

John Koskinen remains Commissioner of the IRS. Only last month Kim Strassel noted that the IRS is still toying with conservative nonprofits. Kim wrote that “Trump’s Justice Department has inexplicably continued to defend the IRS’s misdeeds under President Obama,” of which Kim herself covered many.

At the heart of Kim’s book The Intimidation Game lies a narrative account of the voluminous IRS wrongdoing during the Obama administration (chapters 7-11 and 21). It is chilling.

An unsigned editorial in the current issue of the Weekly Standard laments “The unaccountable IRS.” It does not cite evidence supporting the proposition that Lerner is guilty of criminal wrongdoing. However, it does restate the issues raised by the status quo while and take up themes that have occupied us over the years:

To understand the pragmatic realities of federal governance in the 21st century, one must recognize the existence of a fourth branch of government: the administrative state. We have some two million federal bureaucrats with extraconstitutional legislative powers. Not only do they write the reams of regulations that order our lives, they have the authority to enforce them capriciously. And thanks to absurd civil service protections, it is exceedingly difficult to hold them accountable for abuses of power, even when Congress demands it.

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.

President Obama declared on national television during the height of the scandal that there was “not even a smidgen of corruption” in the agency. That’s laughable….

The intimidation game will be resumed unless something is done. The Standard editorial raises the question what is to be done. Concerned readers will want to check out the whole thing here.