Top IRS official Lois Lerner has now "retired."
Lerner, under fire since she confessed on May 10, 2013, that the IRS had singled out Tea Party and other conservative groups for extra scrutiny, had been on paid leave while revelation after revelation demonstrated that she was not only instrumental in targeting Tea Party groups, but she also misled the American public when the agency "confessed" to IRS wrongdoing.
In fact, nothing about her original story has proven true. In May, she claimed that low-level officials applied extra scrutiny to conservative groups, that this scrutiny was “wrong,” and that the IRS put a stop to it when it learned of the abuse.
All these assertions were wrong.
Leaked documents show that Lerner, former Director of IRS Exempt Organizations, saw the Tea Party applications as "extremely dangerous,"
The documents show she took the lead in yanking their applications for tax exempt status from Cincinnati to Washington, D.C. -- where they were ultimately scrutinized in the IRS Chief Counsel's office -- and she hoped that the Federal Election Commission would "save the day" from conservative electoral gains.
Yet no other federal agency had to "save the day," as the IRS conducted its systematic targeting of conservatives and then kept targeting them even after approving their applications for tax exemption, actions that had an undeniable impact on conservative advocacy.
In other words, rather than providing the solution, Lerner was a key part of the problem.
As the evidence of her wrongdoing quickly piled up, Lerner improperly pled the Fifth Amendment before a congressional panel, proclaiming her innocence before refusing to speak – a move that would never work in federal court.
Lerner has been on paid administrative leave, collecting a paycheck from taxpayers even as IRS officials kept signing her name to official correspondence. Now she's retired, and will still cash her checks from taxpayers.
This is intolerable. If Lerner worked in the private sector, she would have been fired long ago. But our federal bureaucracy protects its own, and few agencies are better at evading responsibility than the IRS.
According to an unnamed Democratic staffer, Lerner retired after the IRS found that Lerner was “neglectful of duty,” but the IRS still maintains there was “no evidence of political bias.”
The IRS needs to re-read the definition of “evidence.”
Lerner has retired, but her legal troubles are not over. The FBI is conducting a criminal investigation, Congress is continuing its own probes, and the ACLJ is pressing forward with its federal lawsuit -- brought on behalf of 41 conservative groups in 22 states -- to hold Lerner and other senior IRS officials accountable for their unconstitutional abuse of the First Amendment.
The IRS may have decided that Lerner was merely “neglectful,” but the IRS doesn’t have the last word. The FBI, Congress, and – ultimately – the federal courts will have their say.
And their judgment could be harsh indeed.
Jay Sekulow is Chief Counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which focuses on constitutional law. He’s a New York Times bestselling author. Jay's latest book “Undemocratic: Rogue, Reckless and Renegade: How the Government is Stealing Democracy One Agency at a Time” (Feb 2) is available now. He hosts "Jay Sekulow Live"-- a daily radio show which is broadcast on more than 850 stations nationwide as well as Sirius/XM satellite radio. Follow him on Twitter @JaySekulow.