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Justice Department appears 'knee deep' in IRS targeting scandal

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A congressional committee chairman released a report on Tuesday that appears to further question the identity of who triggered the IRS investigation into conservative groups when testimony from the number-two man at the U.S. Justice Department appeared to have contradicted the previously released information by the Internal Revenue Service. Lawmakers now believe the Justice Department is knee deep in the growing scandal.

According to a report from House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and its Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Job Creation, and Regulatory Affairs Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, Deputy Attorney General James Cole testified that a DOJ attorney contacted the IRS, apparently on his own initiative. However, Issa and Jordan contend that an email from that DOJ attorney indicated that someone at the IRS had asked him to look into conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.

Richard C. Pilger, the DOJ's director of the Election Crimes Branch in the Public Integrity Section of Criminal Division, contacted the IRS' former tax-exempt division chief Lois Lerner, the key person in the scandal, who has twice refused to testify before Congress, invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

In his opening statement, Cole testified that a "Public Integrity Section attorney reached out to the IRS for a meeting… for the purpose of understanding what potential criminal violations, related to campaign finance activity, might evolve following the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC.”

Cole also stated that Pilger “reached out” to Lois Lerner, but in Pilger’s email he said, “I have been asked to run something by you.”

"That would beg the question, who is that person who contacted Pilger and triggered the inquiry into tea-party groups? Investigators would be keen to know if that person was a higher-up at the Department of Justice, or perhaps even the White House," noted Issa and Jordan.

Following subcommittee chairman Jim Jordan's relentless questioning Cole finally conceded that the DOJ had reached out to the IRS to inquire about whether conservative groups may have been in violation of their tax-exempt status. Cole also admitted that even after receiving computer disks containing well over one-million-pages including confidential taxpayer information which were kept by the DOJ for four years, his office did nothing.

"If committee Republicans can make a convincing case that the IRS and DOJ stonewalled and lied at the topmost levels, the only way to uncover the truth would be the appointment of a special prosecutor, who would have more extensive subpoena powers than even Congress," noted the lawmakers.

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