In a letter to the lawmakers, the Justice Department said that “reopening the criminal investigation would not be appropriate based on the available evidence.”
This past April, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, and Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., had asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions to take a “fresh look” at the case.
Despite numerous hearings and inquiries into the tough treatment of conservative groups by the tax agency during the 2010 and 2012 elections, the Obama Justice Department had announced in 2015 that no one at the IRS would be prosecuted. They said at the time that investigators had “found no evidence that any IRS official acted based on political, discriminatory, corrupt or other inappropriate motives that would support a criminal prosecution.”
The Republicans who requested a fresh look at the case were disappointed in the Trump DOJ’s response.
“This is a terrible decision,” Brady said. “It sends the message that the same legal, ethical, and constitutional standards we all live by do not apply to Washington political appointees.”
Lerner headed the IRS division that processes applications for tax-exempt groups. An inspector general’s report in 2013 found that the IRS had singled out conservative and tea party groups for extra scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status. Many had their applications delayed for months and years. Some were asked improper questions about their donors and even their religious practices.
Much of the agency’s leadership, including Lerner, resigned or retired over the scandal.
Brady said appointees “will now have the green light to target Americans for their political beliefs and mislead investigators without ever being held accountable for their lawlessness.”
Lerner and her attorney have long maintained she did nothing wrong. In 2014, the Ways and Means Committee voted to refer Lerner to the Justice Department for possible criminal prosecution.
Republicans on the committee said she may have violated the constitutional rights of conservative groups, misled investigators and risked exposing confidential taxpayer information.