Just days before she is set to face a contempt vote by the House Oversight Committee, Republicans in the chamber are drafting a series of criminal charges against former IRS official Lois Lerner.
According to recent reports, the House Ways and Means Committee is preparing a letter to be sent to Attorney General Eric Holder in hopes that his Justice Department will pursue three separate counts against the disgraced tax-exempt division director. A GOP source confirmed each of the allegations relate to her role in specifically targeting conservative groups for added scrutiny.
Lerner has been the most recognizable face of the ongoing controversy over the past year. After initially conceding that her department unfairly targeted organizations with a Tea Party affiliation, she has been notoriously tight-lipped in subsequent interrogations.
After repeatedly invoking her Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination, House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa has repeatedly threatened her with contempt. On Thursday, a committee vote is set to determine whether she will be held in contempt of Congress.
The letter being drafted by the Ways and Means Committee, however, is a completely separate endeavor. Reports indicate the correspondence will only be available to committee members prior to its delivery to Holder because it contains substantial confidential information related to individual taxpayers. Democrats in the House will have an opportunity to propose amendments to the GOP’s draft.
Assuming the committee approves the letter, Holder will decide whether to pursue charges against the former official. Criticized by many conservatives for politicizing the Justice Department, a decision to hold Lerner accountable for potential criminal acts would likely earn him some much-needed credibility among his detractors.
Reports show the Justice Department did not respond to initial requests for comment on the matter.
In any event, Lerner faces an onslaught of Republican backlash for her department’s handling of conservative groups. Many feel, however, that she was just part of a much larger conspiracy to suppress anti-Obama sentiment ahead of the 2012 presidential election.
In order to determine exactly who commissioned the unjust targeting, Lerner must be compelled to completely and truthfully answer investigators’ questions. Issa’s ongoing campaign, culminating in Thursday’s contempt vote, is designed to do exactly that.
–B. Christopher Agee
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