Hot Air reported on Friday that Judge Emmet Sullivan of the D.C. Federal District Court has rejected the “hard drive ate my emails” excuse from the IRS for not delivering the self-emails to Judicial Watch, which is suing to see them. He has given the IRS one week to deliver the emails or to come up with a better explanation as to why they refuse to do so. In effect Judge Sullivan has opened his own investigation on the matter of the IRS harassment of tea party organizations.
The emails that former IRS official Lois Lerner and others has become the missing Nixon tapes for the current scandal. The fact that the tax agency was used as a political weapon to go after President Obama’s political opponents is not in serious dispute. The only open question is how high did the operation go?
Or, to coin a phrase from Watergate, what did the president know and when did he know it?
The powers of a federal judge to impose sanctions against lawyers and litigants whom he or she feel is abusing the process in his or her court are broad, almost in fact absolute. Sometimes this can take the form of fines against the offending party and his or her attorneys. Judge Sullivan might find the IRS in civil contempt, for which he would be able to start throwing people in jail for an indefinite period, until they stop being in contempt.
In a way the IRS is about to get a taste of the pain that it often inflicts on errant tax payers it suspects of playing fast and loose. It is now in a terrible situation. Either it can continue to stick with its original story, risking the full fury of an enraged federal judge, or it can come clean, whatever that means, and risking an apocalypse being visited upon it and the Obama administration.