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DOJ Clears Lois Lerner, Closes IRS Investigation

Lerner in a House Oversight Committee hearing in in 2013. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Congress wanted to jail her , but the Justice Department closed its investigation Friday into the IRS's handling of tax-exemption applications from political groups without pursuing criminal charges against Lois Lerner.  

In a letter to congressional committees probing the allegations that Lerner knowingly presided over the improper targeting of conservative organizations, Assistant Attorney General Peter J. Kadzik said the DOJ "found no evidence that any IRS official acted based on political, discriminatory, corrupt, or other inappropriate motives that would support a criminal prosecution.” The investigation, launched in May 2013, uncovered substantial evidence of mismanagement, poor judgement and institutional inertia, Kadzik stated. No IRS employee interviewed by the DOJ reported having any information suggesting actions were taken "with the purpose of harming or harassing applicants affiliated with the Tea Party or similar groups," he stated. Even politically conservative employees who were critical of Lerner's leadership and management style did not suspect their boss acted with political, discriminatory or corrupt purposes.  

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who grilled Lerner during tense House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearings, said the decision not to prosecute ignored "volumes of evidence in the public record and efforts to obstruct legitimate inquires.  

“Americans’ faith in government and in the IRS in particular, has been greatly eroded by an Administration that when confronted with instances of misconduct appears complicit in shielding those involved from responsibility. Giving Lois Lerner a free pass only reinforces the idea that government officials are above the law and that there is no consequence for wrongdoing.”  

The top Democrat on the committee, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md., called out the GOP for conducting "taxpayer-funded attacks."  

"Over the past five years, Republicans in the House of Representatives have squandered literally tens of millions of dollars going down all kinds of investigative rabbit holes — IRS, Planned Parenthood, Benghazi — with absolutely no evidence of illegal activity," Cummings said in a statement. "I believe the American people have higher expectations for their elected officials, and they want Congress to start doing its job and focusing on issues that matter instead of these ridiculous, partisan, taxpayer-funded attacks."

“The Department of Justice investigation did conclude that the actions of IRS personnel involved in the scandal was ‘disquieting’ and in that we all agree," said House Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte said in a statement. "However, the American people should be concerned that this kind of politicization continues to go unchecked by this Administration and a Justice Department charged with pursuing wrongdoing. You can be sure this will be a major issue during the Committee’s DOJ oversight hearing with Attorney General Lynch next week.”

Lindsey McPherson contributed to this report. 

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