Judge Susan Dlott may not be a household name among conservatives; but the federal judge’s decision last week allowing a lawsuit against the IRS to move forward might make her one. By rejecting the demand from federal government attorneys that the case be dismissed, thereby allowing some of the charges to continue to trial, Dlott has struck a meaningful blow in support of those of us in America still committed to the pursuit of the truth and the rule of law. Her ruling is by no means a slam-dunk for the Tea Party groups involved in the lawsuit; but it is a vital step in holding politically-motivated IRS officials accountable for violating the constitutional rights of conservatives.
Being able to have a day in court seemed an unlikely prospect at the outset of this scandal. One need only consider the IRS’ systematic stonewalling of Congress to understand just how strong is the out-of-control agency’s commitment to protecting itself against being held accountable for misdeeds. If the agency’s top brass was so brazen as to defy seasoned and relentless investigators like House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, then attempting to torpedo a mere lawsuit in federal District Court must have seemed like child’s play for the Establishment. Fortunately for justice -- and the Constitution -- Judge Dlott is not buying into the IRS’ arguments that it is immune from having to defend its actions in a court of law.
The judge did caution that much of what the Tea Party has alleged will be difficult to prove; after all, evidence at the IRS seems mysteriously to disappear daily.
In fact, Thomas Kane, the IRS Deputy Associate Chief Counsel, who oversees document production for congressional investigations, testified last Thursday to a congressional panel about “computer problems” affecting other members of the IRS, including some directly involved in the investigation, which might prevent the IRS from fully complying with Issa’s subpoenas. His testimony contained other bombshells. IRS officials originally claimed that “problems” destroyed disgraced former Service official Lois Lerner’s email communications, erasing likely incriminating evidence linking her (and probably other Obama Administration officials) to criminal conduct. Kane’s testimony now indicates this too may have been more obstruction from top IRS officials. “I don’t know if there is a backup tape with information on it or there isn’t,” Kane told investigators; concluding in a classic understatement, “I know that there’s an issue out there about it.”
“Finding out that IRS Commissioner [John] Koskinen jumped the gun in reporting to Congress that the IRS ‘confirmed’ all back-up tapes had been destroyed makes me even more suspicious of why he waited months to inform Congress about lost Lois Lerner e-mails,” Issa said in a statement following Kane’s testimony. The apparent flip-flop on such a crucial component of the investigation raises the prospect that the IRS was floating the lie about the tapes in order to see if it could escape prosecution; and when it became clear Issa had no intention of relenting in his pursuit, they are now backtracking to avoid additional charges. For instance, a U.S. Archivist recently told a congressional committee the IRS “did not follow the law” by failing to report the loss of Lerner’s emails.
The only thing we know for sure is the IRS is doing everything it can to bury the evidence and the truth. This presents an interesting moral quandary for Democrats, who for years watched in silence as the Obama Administration ran roughshod over every conceivable safeguard against government corruption. “If the government is right in [the Tea Party] case, it means that from now on, no matter who the president is, the IRS can pick out a group of people that disagrees with the president and pull those people out, delay them, harass them, target them, and there's nothing anyone can do about it,” says Edward Greim, the attorney representing the Tea Party groups suing the IRS.
The refusal to so much as even impliedly question Obama’s lawlessness reflects how Democrats have painted themselves into a corner. By remaining silent in the face of repeated Administration scandals over the last six years, Democrats became complicit in likely criminal behavior of the Administration. Furthermore, as Greim highlighted, their silence sets a dangerous precedent of a virtually unchecked Executive Branch; one that eventually will fall back into the hands Republicans sooner than Democrats care to admit -- ironically because of this refusal to speak out against misconduct.
The manner in which Democrats in the House and the Senate have served to defend and enable the Administration’s brazen lawlessness should – hopefully will – hurt them at the polls this fall. In the meantime, Judge Dlott’s interim ruling permitting the Tea Party lawsuit against IRS abuses to move forward, is an important reminder the rule of law still burns in America, if dimly and sporadically.