Letters bearing a senior IRS official’s signature were made public Thursday afternoon that directly contradict her statements and congressional testimony that she had no personal, direct involvement in the IRS scandal and that she had “not done anything wrong.”
The American Center for Law and Justice chief counsel Jay Sekulow revealed that Lois Lerner, now on paid leave as director of exempt organizations for the Internal Revenue Service, left what he described as “a paper trail that reveals her direct involvement in sending intrusive and harassing questionnaires to Tea Party groups in 2012,” according to ACLJ.org.
Lerner claimed that she was first informed of the IRS scheme to target tea party and patriotic organizations in June of 2011. Instead of putting an end to the practice, letters from her indicate her direct participation in the IRS plot.
The letters, from March and April of 2012, bear her signature and are directed to 15 conservative groups of the 27 such organizations currently represented by ACLJ.
One such letter, dated Mar. 16, 2012 to the Ohio Liberty Council, indicated that her office was “unable to make a final determination on your exempt status without additional information.”
That “additional information” included the group’s membership roster, past and future public events as well as “information about the organization’s website, Facebook page, and other social media outlets,” wrote Sekulow. An Inspector General’s audit found such questions wholly improper and outside the purview of the IRS.
Lerner initially triggered the IRS scandal on May 10 by acknowledging that the agency had singled out conservative groups applying for tax exempt status. But at the time, she blamed it on a few “front-line people” in the Cincinnati IRS office. The letters, however, are from her Washington, D.C. office and place her in the center of the controversy.
The letters directly contradict her testimony before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which she referred to as an “opening statement” presented Wednesday morning.
“I have not done anything wrong,” she said according to Politico. “I have not broken any laws. I have not violated any IRS rules or regulations, and I have not provided false information to this or any other committee.”
Her statement that she had “not done anything wrong” coupled with her decision to plead her Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination is itself contradictory. If she did nothing wrong, then the truth can’t incriminate her.
House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., plans to invite Lerner back for another go-round. The letters disclosed by ACLJ Thursday will provide fodder for the committee’s questions. This time the committee members will expect some answers.
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