Lois G. Lerner, the woman at the center of the IRS tea party targeting, lied to congressional investigators when she claimed in 2012 that they were not targeting tea party groups, House Republicans charged Tuesday in a new report documenting her role in the scandal.
House Oversight Committee Republicans' new report accuses Ms. Lerner of "reckless handling" of sensitive taxpayer information because she forwarded it from her government account to a private email.
The report says Ms. Lerner, who led the IRS division that scrutinized applications for nonprofit status before retiring last year, had planned to leave the agency in October anyway. The committee report said the revelation shows she wasn't ousted by the Obama administration but left of her own accord.
Taken together, the committee report says, Ms. Lerner's emails and the testimony of some of her former colleagues show she had a political agenda.
"Lerner believed the political participation of tax-exempt organizations harmed Democratic candidates, she believed something needed to be done, and she directed action from her unit at the IRS," the report concluded.
Ms. Lerner's lawyer, William Taylor III, rejected the findings, saying Republicans have shown they aren't interested in getting at the truth.
"As we have said, the majority has no interest in the facts. The facts interfere with keeping the conspiracy theory alive through the election cycle," he said in a statement. "It would be interesting to know who with any knowledge of the facts says Ms. Lerner did these things. There is not such a person."
Ms. Lerner has refused to answer Congress' questions about the targeting. She has appeared twice before the oversight committee and both times she invoked her Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.
But Republicans said even without her testimony, a case can be made that she gave false testimony to Congress in 2012 when she denied the IRS was targeting conservative groups.
Rep. Trey Gowdy, a South Carolina Republican, argues Ms. Lerner actually waived her Fifth Amendment rights by giving a declaration of her innocence before refusing to answer questions. He said the report shows she "appears to be 0-for-3" in her claim that she didn't do anything wrong.
Mr. Gowdy said he believed Ms. Lerner could have taken her marching orders to go after tea party groups from President Obama's 2010 State of the Union address, when he criticized the Supreme Court and its Citizens United decision, which allowed interest groups to play a larger role in advocating for their issues in federal elections.
"She's a political hack," Mr. Gowdy said. "I think we can pretty easily lay out for our citizens why she did what she did and at some point I hope the members get a chance to lay out for the public what our questions would be."
Democrats countered that Ms. Lerner didn't even learn about the IRS's targeting of nonprofit groups for special scrutiny until 2011 — a year after the Citizens United decision came out.
"While there is certainly evidence of mismanagement at the IRS, this partisan Republican staff report identifies absolutely no evidence to support the central Republican allegations in this investigation — that the White House directed this activity or that it was politically motivated," said Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the oversight committee.
"The inspector general already concluded that Lois Lerner did not even know about the inappropriate criteria until 2011. Are Republicans now suggesting that she somehow went back in time to 2010 to orchestrate this entire conspiracy?" Mr. Cummings said.
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