Darrell Issa’s sham IRS hearings have hit yet another snag. No, it’s not the fact that, if anyone, the IRS targeted progressive groups. No, it’s not more backlash over such matters as cutting off the mic of a civil rights hero who dared question him. No, it’s not even Issa contradicting himself and proving that his sham hearings are nothing but a…sham.
The problem this time…is Ronald Reagan.
Issa’s attempt to prosecute former IRS official Lois Lerner for contempt of Congress because she invoked her Fifth Amendment right in refusing to testify about her role in the IRS’s ill-advised screening process for political nonprofits. The Tea Party has been up in arms about Lerner since an inspector general found that the agency used “inappropriate” terms that seemed to single out conservative groups.
The matter of Lerner’s prosecution was referred to federal prosecutors to be brought before a grand jury, but nothing further happened. At Thursday’s installment of the series of money-wasting hearings Republicans demanded that Deputy AG James Cole explain why prosecutors have not moved forward with the case.
From Huffington Post:
“This Congress held Lois Lerner in contempt, geez, almost nine weeks ago,” Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) said, citing the procedure that’s spelled out in law that says the prosecutor’s duty “shall be to bring the matter before the grand jury.”
But Cole noted that the prosecutor still gets to decide.
“My understanding of the law is that it does not strip the U.S. attorney of the normal discretion that the U.S. attorney has,” Cole said. “He proceeds with the case if he believes it is appropriate to do so.”
Republicans…well…did something like this:
Issa demanded proof. “If you think that’s discretionary, would you please give that back to us in a legal opinion so that we can change the law to make it clear you’re wrong,” Issa said.
Elijah Cummings, who has regularly called Issa out on this phony “investigation,” was more than happy to oblige, and cited an opinion written by conservative lawyer Theodore Olson when he worked for Ronald Reagan’s Office of Legal Counsel in 1984.
“What it says is, ‘We believe Congress may not direct the executive to prosecute a particular individual without leaving any discretion to the executive to determine whether a violation of the law has occurred.’ That’s what the opinion says — a 1984 opinion dated May 30,” Cummings said. “This was a contempt citation coming from Congress that he was talking about.”
This opinion has been cited many times over the years, including under both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. However, Issa feigned surprise and called it a “new” assertion, conveniently ignoring that his own committee heard it in 2012 when Congress voted to hold the Attorney General in contempt. In fact, Issa himself was sent a carbon copy of the letter explaining the decision in 2012.
There you have it, folks: The Reagan Administration colluded with Obama to use a legal option written by a conservative lawyer in order to allow a former IRS official to get away with targeting conservatives. Makes. Perfect. Sense.
Watch the hearing below: