Politico obviously had no problem finding Lois Lerner for an exclusive interview that it published on Monday. So why can’t the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, Ronald C. Machen, Jr., find Lois Lerner so that a federal grand jury can interview her? Perhaps the Obama administration doesn’t want Lerner answering any real questions about what happened at the IRS when it was targeting conservative organizations.
While Lois Lerner gave a lengthy interview to Politico in the presence of her legal defense team, including her husband, who is also a lawyer and a partner at a major law firm, she didn’t answer a single substantive question about the IRS’s actions. In fact, Rachael Bade, the Politico reporter, admits that Lerner “studiously avoided answering fundamental questions about her role in the IRS scandal.”
Given its lack of substance, it appears that this personal interview is part of a publicity campaign by Lerner’s legal team to try to repair her public image, since Lerner refuses to actually provide the information that Congress has asked for and over which she was held in contempt by the House of Representatives on May 7, 2014. And that brings us back to Ronald Machen, who was nominated by President Obama to be the U.S. Attorney for D.C. and confirmed by the Senate in February 2010. Machen has taken no action on Lerner’s contempt citation, which the clerk of the House sent to him in May.
Under federal law (2 U.S.C. §194), the duty of the U.S. Attorney “shall be to bring the [contempt citation] before” a federal grand jury for action. Under 2 U.S.C. §192, Lerner could be imprisoned “for not less than one month nor more than twelve months” and fined up to $1,000 for refusing to answer questions posed by Congress. Yet despite the mandatory language of the federal statute, it now has been almost five months since Machen received the contempt citation. There has been no public statement from Justice that any action has been taken by Machen to do what he is supposed to do: present the Lerner contempt citation to a grand jury. It appears to have gone down a rabbit hole at Justice.
Perhaps Rachael Bade, the Politico reporter who got the exclusive interview with Lois Lerner, can send Machen contact information for Lois Lerner. It looks like Machen needs it. And perhaps just one of the many enterprising reporters who inhabit Washington and who are always looking for a good story could ask Machen why he hasn’t acted and whether he ever intends to conduct his own “exclusive interview” with Lois Lerner – before a federal grand jury.
Lerner’s husband brags that Lerner got “amazing ratings and bonuses” under “both Republican and Democratic administrations” as if that excuses her actions. But that is meaningless. Career civil servants like Lerner are seldom disciplined for misbehavior, and good ratings and bonuses for career executives are commonplace, not rare, in the federal system.
Lerner’s claim in the interview that her personal political opinions as a registered Democrat “never affected my work” is belied by the emails that have surfaced in which she (and her husband) berate conservatives, calling them “crazies” and “a-holes,” as well as her actual behavior on the job. She very clearly did not like conservative organizations spending money on political speech and political campaigns, complaining about the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case, and praising states that tried to counter it.
Former Federal Election Commission Chairman Lee Ann Elliott, who worked with Lerner at the FEC before Lerner moved to the IRS, confirmed to Politico that Lerner was biased against groups that were political spenders. Another former FEC executive assistant said that Lerner’s “ideology inhibited fair administration of the law.”
Lerner tells Politico that “you don’t hear half of what happened because they are picking and choosing,” apparently referring to Republican members of Congress who are trying to investigate the IRS. But if that is true, then Lerner has only herself to blame – she is the one refusing to answer questions about “what happened.”