It turns out even IRS officials have constitutional rights after all! Good to know. The Department of Justice has declined to pursue contempt of Congress charges against Lois Lerner, the IRS official who now serves as the scapegoat for billionaires' tax-exempt organization abuses.
Ronald Machen, the former U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, told House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in a seven-page letter this week that he would not bring a criminal case to a grand jury over Lerner’s refusal to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in March 2014. The House approved a criminal contempt resolution against Lerner in May 2014, and Machen’s office has been reviewing the issue since then.
Machen said the Oversight Committee “followed proper procedures” in telling Lerner that it had “rejected her claim of privilege and gave her an adequate opportunity to answer the committee’s questions.”
However, Machen said DOJ lawyers determined that Lerner “did not waive her Fifth Amendment right by making an opening statement on May 22, 2013, because she made only general claims of innocence.”
Machen added: “Given that assessment, we have further concluded that it is not appropriate for a United States attorney to present the matter to the grand jury for action where, as here, the Constitution prevents the witness from being prosecuted for contempt.”
Of course, no one ever expected Lois Lerner to be prosecuted for these charges. She was a scalp, a name they could toss around on social media and Fox 'News' to use as a general symbol to send a message about how the billionaires react to anyone who dares to question their motives with all those secret donations to organizations intended to push right-wing policy and elect right-wing politicians.
For her part, Lerner is pleased with the outcome.
Lerner, unsurprisingly, was pleased by the announcement. “Anyone who takes a serious and impartial look at this issue would conclude that Ms. Lerner did not waive her Fifth Amendment rights,” said Lerner’s attorney, William Taylor III, in a statement. “It is unfortunate that the majority party in the House put politics before a citizen’s constitutional rights.”
“Ms. Lerner is pleased to have this matter resolved and looks forward to moving on with her life,” Taylor added.
I'm pretty sure they won't let her move on with her life as long as they can snarl her name out in social media and rip her apart every time they don't get their way. But still, it's good to see the Constitution working in everyone's favor, not just the money boys.