The IRS is in hot water once again with no-nonsense federal district court judge Emmet Sullivan over Lois Lerner’s emails. A year ago, Judge Sullivan ordered the IRS to explain in writing and under oath how some of Lerner’s emails went missing, and to detail any potential methods for recovering them.
The IRS managed to recover 1,800 emails that it previously claimed “inadvertently” were destroyed. Now, it has again incurred Judge Sullivan’s wrath.
Today, he threatened to hold the Commissioner of the IRS and Justice Department attorneys representing the government in contempt of court because they failed to produce status reports and newly recovered emails of Lois Lerner, as the judge had ordered on July 1, 2015.
Sullivan told the government that its excuses for not following his July 1 order were “indefensible, ridiculous, and absurd.” He reminded Justice Department lawyer Geoffrey Klimas that he had the ability to detain him for contempt. And he added, “I will haul into court the IRS Commissioner to hold him personally into contempt” if there is any more non-compliance with the July 1 order.
In that order, Sullivan directed the IRS to begin producing, every week, the nearly 1,800 newly recovered Lerner emails responsive to Judicial Watch’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The IRS did not produce any Lerner emails until July 15. It also failed to provide Judicial Watch the status report regarding the Lerner email production that Sullivan had ordered.
Judge Sullivan was not amused. And he was as scathing in his written order as he was from the bench.
In response to Sullivan’s opinion, Tom Fitton of Judicial Watch said:
The missing and-then-not missing Lois Lerner saga is a stark example of the Obama administration’s contempt for a federal court and the rule of law. That Obama administration officials would risk jail rather than disclose these Lerner documents shows that the IRS scandal has just gotten a whole lot worse.
Keep in mind that, as Andy McCarthy notes, there is nothing onerous about Judge Sullivan’s July 1 order. 1,800 emails is not a large haul by the standards of modern document discovery. Yet, the judge permitted the IRS to produce them on a rolling basis. IRS hasn’t even been willing to do this.
Meanwhile, the first batch of documents that the IRS produced, belatedly, is revealing. According to Judicial Watch, the documents show that Lois Lerner and other top officials in the IRS, including soon-to-be Acting IRS Commissioner Steve Miller, closely monitored and approved the controversial handling of tax-exempt applications by Tea Party organizations.
They also show that at least one group received an inquiry from the IRS not because the Service needed information, but rather in order to buy time and keep the organization from contacting Congress. This is smoking gun proof that top officials in President Obama’s IRS unlawfully harassed taxpayers just to keep them from complaining to Congress about IRS’ targeting and abuse.
It will be interesting to see what future productions reveal.
JOHN adds: If you ask yourself, what are the worst sins of the Obama administration, there are lots of candidates. But I think the administration’s lawlessness must be first on the list. An important aspect of Obama’s scofflaw philosophy has been his transformation of the Department of Justice into a partisan tool.
Never in our history, to my knowledge, has DOJ been so politicized. This is really a tragedy. Federal lawyers now routinely appear in court to explain why administration officials have ignored, or laughed at, judges’ orders. Never before has this happened. The corrupt, incompetent and insanely politicized Obama administration will leave a shameful legacy. Some aspects of that history can be reversed without much difficulty by a new administration, but I fear that his politicization of the Department of Justice will leave a bitter legacy that may persist for a long, long time.