“We are gratified but not surprised by today’s news,” said former IRS official Lois Lerner’s lawyer on receiving word that his client will not be prosecuted for contempt of Congress.
I’ll bet you weren’t surprised either.
The situation is summed by Robert W. Wood in Forbes:
If you were targeted by the IRS, you probably thought that retired but officially silent Lois Lerner–who ran a key IRS division–might face charges. Congress found her in contempt after she professed her innocence, and thereafter took the Fifth.
Much later, she broke her silence to Politico, saying she did nothing wrong, claiming that she was the victim. The U.S. Attorney’s Office was supposedly considering prosecution, but now it announced she is off the hook and will not be charged with contempt.
The decision not to pursue a contempt of Congress charge for Ms. Lerner was issued by U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen on his last day on the job before returning to private practice:
Mr. Machen said making a general statement of innocence “did not amount to ‘testimony’ about the actual facts,” so Ms. Lerner was in the clear.
“The Constitution would provide Ms. Lerner with an absolute defense if she were prosecuted for contempt,” Mr. Machen said in a statement.
Perhaps just as important as his decision not to prosecute was Mr. Machen’s defense of his ability to make such a decision in the first place.
Mr. Machen said the House has constitutional powers to call witnesses and to hold them in contempt when they violate the rules, but said the executive branch has the power to decide whether or not to carry out the actual prosecution.
It was a foregone conclusion that the Obama administration would not prosecute Ms. Lerner. And that’s the problem: even if Mr. Machen’s reasoning is correct—and it doesn’t appear to be, though I have not read Machen’s seven-page letter outlining the decision—many of us will find it hard to believe in its integrity. Justice is politicized in Barack Obama’s Washington.
While this lets Ms. Lerner off the hook for contempt, there remains an investigation of Ms. Lerner and the IRS targeting of conservative groups.
Do you expect to be surprised?