Issa Demands Answers from Holder on DOJ’s Role in IRS Scandal, Networks Do Nothing

On Wednesday Darrell Issa demanded Attorney General Eric Holder answer new questions about the Justice Department’s role in the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups. In a letter sent to Holder, Issa sought answers about a newly released email between former IRS official Lois Lerner and DOJ official Richard Pilger in which Pilger asks Lerner “When you have a moment, will you call me? I’ve been asked to run something by you” and requests who at the IRS “DOJ folks could talk to” about ways to target politically involved non-profit groups.

So far none of the broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC) reported on this latest IRS scandal development on their evening or morning shows.

On Thursday the Washington Examiner’s Susan Crabtree reported the following:

Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is raising new questions about the Justice Department’s role in the IRS targeting of conservative groups.

Issa wants more answers from the administration about a previously unreleased email between a DOJ official and former IRS official Lois Lerner about potential prosecutions of conservative groups that had applied for tax-exempt status.

In the email, Richard Pilger, director of the Election Crimes Branch of the DOJ’s Public Integrity Section, noted via email to Lerner, “When you have a moment, will you call me? I’ve been asked to run something by you.”

In the email, Pilger doesn’t say who had asked him to contact Lerner but provides some context for the prospective conversation, saying he wanted to know who at the IRS “DOJ folks could talk to” about ways to target 501(c)(4) nonprofit groups heavily involved in politics that may be pushing the boundaries of the law with their political activity.

Pilger sent the note two days before Lerner disclosed the targeting of conservative groups and apologized for it during remarks at a conference sponsored by the American Bar Association.

The email was part of a trove Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group, released last week showing Lerner in contact with DOJ about the potential for prosecuting tax-exempt groups.

Issa argues that the email shows that the DOJ was considering prosecuting these nonprofits for actions that are legal for 501(c)(4) nonprofits under federal tax law – “that is, engaging in political speech.”

The California Republican sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder asking for him to produce documents and allow the committee to interview Pilger on why his agency was considering prosecuting the tax-exempt groups already improperly targeted by the IRS.

“Mr. Pilger’s communications with Ms. Lerner are also striking for their timing,” Issa argued in the letter. “They show that the IRS and the Justice Department were actively considering efforts to target tax-exempt organizations just two days before Ms. Lerner’s public apology for the targeting.”

The information undermines the “sincerity of Lerner’s apology,” he wrote, and calls into questions Holder’s reaction when the story first broke that the targeting was “outrageous” and “unacceptable.”

“These comments ring hollow in light of evidence that your subordinates apparently colluded with the IRS to target nonprofit groups less than a week before,” he continued.

— Geoffrey Dickens is Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center. Follow Geoffrey Dickens on Twitter.