House Oversight chairman says FBI is impeding IRS investigation
A certain tension is developing between congressional investigators and the FBI over the investigation of IRS abuses of power. Did you know the FBI was investigating that? Why would the FBI conduct such an investigation? Well, according to House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa and Rep. Jim Jordan, the Bureau might have been deployed by Attorney General Eric Holder’s hyper-politicized Justice Department to build a stone wall against congressional inquiry. From the Washington Times:
The House’s chief investigator says the FBI is stonewalling his inquiry into whether the agency and the Internal Revenue Service targeted conservative group True the Vote for special scrutiny, and Rep. Darrell E. Issa is now threatening subpoenas to pry loose the information from FBI Director James B. Comey Jr.
Mr. Issa, California Republican, and Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican, are leading the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s IRS inquiry. They also said the FBI is refusing to turn over any documents related to its own investigation into the IRS, which began in the days after an auditor’s report revealed the tax agency had improperly targeted tea party groups for special scrutiny.
Six months after it began, the FBI’s investigation has resulted in no release of information. The congressmen said the FBI even rescinded an offer for an in-person briefing with the assistant director in charge of the investigation. The reversal, after the FBI consulted with the Justice Department, suggests political meddling, the two investigators said.
“The department’s tactics have impeded a congressional investigation and interfered with the committee’s access to documents and information. Obstructing a congressional investigation is a crime,” Mr. Issa and Mr. Jordan said in their letter to Mr. Comey, warning that if they don’t get the information they will use “compulsory” means.
This is especially awkward because the FBI was involved in one of the more notorious abuse-of-power complaints, from Catherine Engelbrecht of True the Vote and King Street Patriots. So was just about every other federal agency, because the Engelbrechts really got the works:
Soon after True the Vote began pushing to clear rolls of ineligible voters, Ms. Engelbrecht said, she and her husband faced an occupational safety investigation into their company, an IRS audit of their company, repeated rounds of IRS questions about True the Vote’s activities, and six inquiries from the FBI about the King Street Patriots — including general inquiries and specific questions about someone who attended a group meeting.
“They basically got the full monte — all these agencies with everything she’s involved in,” said Cleta Mitchell, an attorney for True the Vote and counsel to the ActRight Legal Foundation.
Not to say that it’s completely inexplicable for the FBI to investigate abuse of power by IRS officials, but it just seems a little offbeat, especially since the investigation doesn’t appear to be going anywhere, even though this is one of the most obvious crimes ever committed. There’s no shortage of suspects, motives, or evidence here. It’s not hard to ring up IRS officials, ask them about the Tea Party case, and hear their thrilling renditions of the Fifth Amendment.
Issa and Jordan find it strange that the FBI doesn’t have any details from its “investigation” that it wants to share with Congress, and we still seem to be waiting for firm answers as to why the Bureau started hassling King Street Patriots back in the day. In a response that will sound familiar to any student of Benghazi or Operation Fast and Furious, the FBI says it can’t discuss its “ongoing investigation.” Ongoing investigations have become the 404 error messages of government accountability in the Obama era. They have a funny tendency to go on until the White House reclassifies them as “old news” and sends forth spokespeople with shovels full of dirt to bury the ancient scandal.
The FBI actually made an offer to bring House Oversight into the loop and provide some documents, but then changed their mind and said they’d hold a briefing instead. The congressmen didn’t hear anything else about the promised briefing for a couple of weeks, so they followed up, and were told the idea had to be approved by the Justice Department. The briefing was subsequently canceled for mysterious reasons, with the FBI insisting nobody from DOJ interfered. That sounds reasonable, because we all know how much Attorney General Holder loves congressional oversight, and the high esteem in which he holds the House Oversight Committee. I wouldn’t be surprised to find a Darrell Issa bobblehead on AG Holder’s desk.
Maybe Reps. Issa and Jordan should have offered to bring donuts. It sounds like they might be thinking about serving fresh-baked subpoenas instead, as reported by Politico:
The lawmakers say the sequence of events suggest that DOJ employees “inappropriately interfered and prevented” the meeting from occurring.
“The department’s tactics have impeded a congressional investigation and interfered with the committee’s access to documents and information. Obstructing a congressional investigation is a crime,” the lawmakers wrote. “As the director of the FBI, we trust that you will assist the committee in uncovering all the facts surrounding these actions.”
Issa and Jordan write to [FBI Director James] Comey that if they don’t receive the information they are seeking by Dec. 16, they will have to consider “the use of compulsory process to obtain them.”
The pair also said they were including on the letter Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy and Ranking Member Chuck Grassley, whose committee is considering a Department of Justice nominee, Peter Kadzik.
This is one of the most comically clumsy deployments of blue smoke and mirrors in living memory. As the Washington Times reminds us, “The internal auditor for the IRS reported in May that the agency asked inappropriately probing questions and delayed conservative groups’ applications- in some cases for three years.” But no one has been punished, no charges have been brought, and no one has been fired. There were a couple of graceful retirements, preceded by a very long paid vacation in the case of key scandal figure Lois Lerner, but that’s it. How can there be any non-political justification for the game the FBI is playing with House Oversight investigators? At the very least, Chairman Issa should be briefed on who is under investigation, and which laws they’ve been accused of breaking. Either this is the mother of all organized crime investigators, or it’s another Administration delaying tactic.