True The Vote, a voting watchdog group in Houston, Texas, has been in litigation against the IRS since 2013 regarding the practice of targeting conservative groups for extra scrutiny in their applications for tax-exempt status. Earlier this year, the lawyers for the IRS agreed to settle the case. However, when True The Vote (TTV) submitted a motion requesting reimbursement for legal fees, the IRS issued a strong objection to awarding attorney fees. The objection stated, among other things, that the IRS didn’t actually engage in bad behavior, that TTV didn’t prevail in its litigation after all, and that they were essentially free to continue to behave the way they have in the future. The objection essentially said that the IRS hadn’t committed any of the wrongdoing it had previously admitted.
This objection directly refutes the consent decree negotiated with the same DOJ lawyers for the IRS and signed by the presiding circuit court judge in the case.
Catherine Engelbrecht is the president of True The Vote. She issued a statement expressing shock at the response from the IRS lawyers. Englebrecht said, in part:
Department of Justice attorneys, representing the Internal Revenue Service, have filed a strident opposition to True the Vote’s petition for consideration of fees, claiming victory for the IRS! Despite wholesale admissions of wrongdoing by the IRS and findings by the D.C. District Court that such wrongdoing is unlawful and unconstitutional, the DOJ now claims that conservative groups’ lawsuits did nothing to change the behavior of the Internal Revenue Service.
In the filing, the Department of Justice makes the following claims on behalf of the IRS:
• all conservative groups lost
• the IRS is legally free to resume its discriminatory practices targeting conservative groups
• the IRS’s five-year legal battle against conservative groups was justified
It is impossible to distinguish the Trump DOJ’s arguments from the Obama DOJ’s actions that led to this litigation battle in the first place. (Full IRS filing can be found here).
In an interview, Jim Bopp, Jr, the attorney for True The Vote, told PJM that this statement indicates that the deep state is alive and well in the Trump Department of Justice. “The judge agreed with our negotiations with the IRS and issued a consent decree,” said Bopp. “In that decree, we indicated our intent to file for attorney’s fees. The Department of Justice lawyers were aware of this and agreed to it. Then they filed against us, saying that, no we didn’t prevail, no the IRS didn’t do anything wrong, no there’s no agreement, and we are not entitled to attorney’s fees. They said that because the judge didn’t issue an injunction, that justified everything the IRS had done for so many years, and that they were free to discriminate in the future. This is the deep state still being at least partially in control of the DOJ. These are the same lawyers we negotiated our settlement with who are representing the IRS. It’s just outrageous.”
To reiterate, these same attorneys for the DOJ had already admitted IRS wrongdoing and had agreed to settle the case. When the judge issued a consent decree, it indicated that the U.S. Circuit Court agreed with the findings in the case. This was not merely settled and dismissed. Bopp said, “We settled the case with a court-ordered Consent Decree where the IRS admitted that they were wrong in targeting conservative groups for adverse treatment.” He added, “As a result of this court victory, TTV filed for reimbursement of their attorney fees caused by the IRS’s wrongful actions. However, to our shock and dismay, the Trump Justice Department, on behalf of the IRS, responded that TTV had actually lost the case and that the actions of the IRS in attacking conservative groups and litigating the matter for over 5 years were totally justified.”
Bopp notes that candidate Donald Trump mentioned this repeatedly on the campaign trail, and promised to clean up the IRS once in office. Bopp believes that Obama holdovers are responsible for undermining the president’s agenda.
It would make sense if Eric Holder were still the attorney general. As it stands, this makes no sense at all.
Bopp and the legal team for TTV will submit a response to the court on April 12.
Check out Catherine Englebrecht’s video explanation for more detail: