“I find that simply incredible – that nine months after the attorney general announced he was opening an investigation, neither the FBI nor the Justice Department has conducted basic interviews with the victims to gather information about their dealings with the IRS officials and employees who may have been involved in wrongdoing,” von Spakovsky said.
Eileen J. O’Connor, former head of the Justice Department’s tax division, told the subcommittee that the matter should have been handed over to the department’s criminal division instead of given to a civil rights division official.
“Some have criticized that selection as inappropriate because the attorney contributed to the president’s campaign and to other causes of his political party,” O’Connor said. “But when does support for the sitting president and his party make one an imprudent choice for an assignment? Not usually. But perhaps it does when the assignment is to investigate the administration’s alleged mistreatment of its political adversaries.”
O’Connor said “justice must not only be done, it must be seen to be done. When wrongdoing has come to light, the public deserves to know that those responsible have been identified and dealt with appropriately and that the law has been enforced impartially.”
“It is for this reason that judges recuse themselves from deciding cases,” she said. “Not because they would not be able to rule impartially, but because there might be a reason the public might think they are not impartial. It is essential to respect for our laws that even the appearance of partiality be avoided.”
These same considerations are applicable in the assignment of a case to a DOJ employee.
“While the Justice Department might not be permitted to take into account an employee’s political contributions, in this case, where the very allegations are of targeting people and organizations for political reasons, avoiding the appearance of partiality or of a conflict of interest might have been in the best interests of justice,” O’Connor said.
In a letter to Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), ranking member on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said the agency has been forced to devote 225 employees and more than 97,000 hours responding to the 501(c)(4) investigation at a cost of $7,989,119.
The result, Cummings said, is no evidence of wrongdoing.
“After one of the most far-reaching investigations in recent history — spanning multiple House and Senate Committees that obtained hundreds of thousands of documents and interviewed dozens of officials — there is absolutely zero evidence of political motivation or White House involvement,” Cummings said. “Despite this fact, Republicans remain fixated on falsely accusing the White House of targeting its political enemies, wasting millions of dollars in an attempt to reignite their partisan inquiry before the November elections.”