A public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption says it has evidence that Lois Lerner, the former IRS official already in hot water for her role in targeting conservative tax-exempt groups, also was conspiring with the Justice Department to prosecute those same groups.
Through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, Judicial Watch has obtained internal IRS documents it says show Lerner was in contact with the Department of Justice about the potential prosecution of 501(c)(4)tax-exempt groups. Lerner is already being held in contempt of Congress by a House committee for failing to cooperate with congressional investigators in the alleged targeting of such groups.
Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, says according to documents obtained this week, Lerner received communication last May from Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) about why the conservative groups had not been prosecuted.
"Lois Lerner received a call from the Department of Justice about how to respond to Whitehouse's concerns," Fitton explains. "And her response was Let's have a meeting with DOJ, let's bring in our criminal investigation branch and have a discussion about prosecuting potentially these very same types of organizations. It's really incredible."
He says the revelations about the discussions between Lerner and DOJ officials should prove enlightening to House members.
"Before it was just about delaying someone's application for tax-exempt status and thereby shutting them down, practically speaking," the Judicial Watch leader notes. "[But] here they're talking about prosecuting people – people [who] Shelton Whitehouse didn't like.
"They were talking to another agency: the Department of Justice. So this isn't just an IRS scandal anymore," he concludes. "This is a broader scandal within the Obama administration and it involves the Department of Justice as well."
Fitton argues that it's time for a special outside counsel to be brought in to investigate and conduct any prosecutions if appropriate.