Kimberly Strassel has a follow up commentary in today’s Wall Street Journal to our post on the WSJ by Jerome Marcus, Esq. on the lack of justice for the languishing Z Street case against the IRS over its patent anti-Israel viewpoint discrimination.
Strassel points out that other cases arising from Tea Party 501.(c)(3) and (c)(4) application have also been stymied by opposition from Department of Justice lawyers leftover from the Obama Administration.
Time for the IRS Swamp to be drained and justice to be achieved.
We had sent the Z Street matter to someone close to President Trump for action to cleanse the IRS of partisan opponents of free speech under our First Amendment . Especially concerning in the Z Street matter was the federal courts up through the appellate levels had ordered the IRS to correct the injustice.
Whether it be pro-Israel Z Street, as a founding board member or many of the Tea Party groups similarly sidelined for adverse and discriminatory treatment, the Trump White House needs to expedite action with the cooperation of the Department of Justice despite their contretemps with Attorney General Sessions over non related matters.
Read what Ms. Strassel has written in her WSJ commentary and share this widely.
Donald Trump promised to drain the swamp, and here’s a seven-month progress report: The Washington bog is still as wide and fetid as ever. Consider that Mr. Trump’s Justice Department has inexplicably continued to defend the IRS’s misdeeds under President Obama.
Voters put a Republican in the White House in part to impose some belated accountability on the scandal-laden Obama administration. And the supreme scandal was the IRS’s assault on tea-party groups—a campaign inspired by congressional Democrats, perpetrated by partisan bureaucrats like Lois Lerner, and covered up by Mr. Obama’s political appointees. This abuse stripped the right to political speech from thousands of Americans over two election cycles. To this day, no one has answered for it.
The groups targeted are still doggedly trying to obtain justice through lawsuits that have dragged on for years. They believed Mr. Trump’s election would bring an end to the government obstruction. It hasn’t. “The posture of the DOJ and the IRS under the Trump administration is identical to the posture under the Obama administration,” Mark Meckler, president of Citizens for Sound Governance, tells me. “Nothing has changed.”
Mr. Meckler was one of the founders of Tea Party Patriots. His current organization is funding a class-action suit in Ohio federal court on behalf of groups targeted by the IRS. So far the effort has cost $3 million.
That money is now going to fight Mr. Trump’s administration. In recent months the Justice Department has continued refusing to hand over documents or make witnesses available for depositions. The plaintiffs finally managed to depose Ms. Lerner and another key IRS player, Holly Paz, earlier this summer. But their counsels successfully demanded that the transcripts be kept secret from the public. As former federal employees, Ms. Lerner and Ms. Paz are presumably getting backup from government lawyers.
The suit has slowly ground through discovery and is teed up for trial early next year. Yet in its latest stunt, the Justice Department has asked for summary judgment—arguing that the facts are so far beyond dispute that the judge should dispense with the trial and simply rule now. This is laughable. The judge is unlikely to even consider it, meaning the motion is nothing more than a way to waste further time and sap the plaintiffs’ resources.
To this day, conservative nonprofits are being toyed with by the IRS. The Texas Patriots Tea Party has waited five years for tax-exempt status and has continued to receive round after round of intrusive agency questions, long after the scandal was exposed and the IRS promised reform.
Other litigants are experiencing the same treatment. The IRS is fighting Judicial Watch in a suit over document requests. Government lawyers are hamstringing a suit against the IRS brought by Z Street, a pro-Israel nonprofit—as described last month in an op-ed on these pages.
The problem is that the same old Obama-era lawyers have been left to run these cases in the same old hostile ways. Who are these people? Laura Beckerman, one of the lead lawyers defending the IRS in the Ohio class action, left government only this month. Her LinkedIn profile says she is now pro bono coordinating counsel at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. CREW is among the most liberal outfits in the capital, fanatically devoted to taking down conservatives. That’s the type still calling the shots in Mr. Trump’s bureaucracy.
The Justice Department’s job is to defend the government, but it is also supposed to pursue justice. And there is no question the IRS did wrong. It has been documented by the Treasury Department’s inspector general and admitted by the IRS itself. It’d be one thing if the plaintiffs were demanding a billion-dollar payout, but they aren’t. Their main request is that the IRS come clean on what happened, and the government is resisting with all its power. The real question is why the Justice Department is even fighting this suit, when it ought to be leading a renewed investigation into what happened and how it got covered up.
This stonewalling cannot be laid solely at the feet of IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, another Obama appointee who bizarrely remains in his post. The IRS, as the client, no doubt is calling many of the legal shots. But the Justice Department has the authority in important cases to make the ultimate judgment call on how the government will handle the litigation.
It’s time for some judgment. Senior leaders in the Justice Department may be wary of replacing or redirecting attorneys on the IRS cases, fearing it might provoke another round of media caterwauling. The White House may be wary of canning Mr. Koskinen, thinking it would be cast as another high-profile firing. But Mr. Trump was hired to impose exactly that sort of accountability. If he’s going to get rapped for dramatic moves, it might as well be for doing something that serves justice.
Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Obama-era lawyers are still obstructing lawsuits to hold the agency accountable.