It’s right there, for anyone who is willing to see it:
The mainstream press has justified its lack of coverage over the Internal Revenue Service targeting of conservative groups because there’s been no “smoking gun” tying President Obama to the scandal. This betrays a remarkable, if not willful, failure to understand abuse of power. The political pressure on the IRS to delay or deny tax-exempt status for conservative groups has been obvious to anyone who cares to open his eyes. It did not come from a direct order from the White House, but it didn’t have to.
Yup. As I wrote when the story first broke:
After the Supreme Court ruled against the administration in Citizens United (the case that some defending the IRS are claiming was the cause of the new scrutiny, despite the fact that it started before the caseloads began to increase), President Civility lectured them, a captive audience at the State of the Union speech, lying about the ruling to their faces (well, all right, to be fair, he may not have been lying — President Constitutional Scholar may have just been ignorant on the nature of the ruling). This undoubtedly made many in his government think that it gave them license to fight the ruling in the trenches against the sudden growth in enemies of the state it had spurred, since their president had said it was wrong.
Let me (as the president would say) be clear. I will be in no way shocked if emails are discovered showing that the White House actively ordered IRS officials to go after Tea Party groups, while green lighting his political allies. My only point is that, sadly, it wouldn’t have been necessary for them to do so.
When the Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket was murdered in 1170, it wasn’t done at the direct order of King Henry II. It didn’t have to be. All it required was for the monarch to muse, aloud, “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?”
But sadly, while we have badly needed a better president for over four years, the real problem isn’t the men and women running the system, and it wasn’t a failure of the system — it is the system itself.
And nothing is happening to fix it, at least so far. There has been no accountability. Congress needs to call Lerner back, and if she refuses to testify, let her do some time for contempt.
[Update a while later]
What happens when Lerner returns to testify next week?
There is no doubt that crimes were committed by IRS officials. Cincinnati unit manager for tax-exempt organizations Cindy Thomas, released the tax applications of nine conservative organizations to left-wing Pro Publica. The IRS systematically delayed conservative groups’ tax-exempt applications across the 2010 to 2012 pre-election timespan, while at the same time, Malik Obama’s Barack H. Obama Foundation’s application was fast-tracked and back-dated. Most left-wing groups saw their applications for tax-exempt status sail through the IRS process. Someone set up a regime to scrutinize conservative groups’ applications more closely than liberal groups. The FBI has slow-dragged its investigation, and still has not even interviewed many of those who believe the IRS abused them. Someone also needs to explain how some conservative leaders have been subjected to IRS audits and long-term assault by an alphabet soup of executive branch agencies during the period in which the IRS abused conservative tax-exempt groups. As the person who first leaked the IRS abuse, and as someone who has a history of using government power against conservatives, Lerner is in a position to know quite a bit how the abuse began and who was directing it, if she was not directing it herself.
Congress lacks the power to prosecute Lerner, but it can grant her immunity from prosecution if she provides credible and compelling evidence that points to others with knowledge of the scandal. It’s unlikely that Lois Lerner is the kingpin of the IRS abuse scandal. She probably lacked the power on her own within the IRS to launch the scrutiny of the abused groups, and she certainly lacked the power to move other executive branch agencies against conservatives. But as the IRS official who first disclosed it, and excused it as actions by “rogue” officers in Cincinnati, Lerner obviously knew a great deal about it — enough to know that it should be downplayed to minimize its political fallout. She lacked any power over the FBI’s failure to fully investigate, and she could not have appointed Obama campaign donor Barbara Bosserman to investigate the case. The Tatler has been told by a very reliable source that evidence exists pointing to White House involvement in the scandal. Issa’s committee surely has the same information. Lerner’s appearance next week presents an excellent opportunity to pursue it.