Lois Lerner, the former head of the IRS tax exempt division, is asking a federal judge to keep her deposition in a class action lawsuit related to the targeting scandal secret.
Lerner and another IRS manager, Holly Paz, claim they were harassed and received death threats for their role in the scandal and believe that releasing their depositions will lead to further threats.
The two women submitted secret evidence to the judge that they said backed up the death threat claim. They said the threats they’ve already gotten contained “graphic, profane and disturbing language” that they said has caused them embarrassment.
The groups suing the IRS in the class action lawsuit have objected to the secrecy order, leaving the matter to Judge Barrett to decide.
So Lerner feels “embarrassment”? She is afraid of “threats”? Imagine what went through the minds of ordinary citizens who felt the heavy hand of the IRS tearing apart their lives, asking for the most personal information, and violating the most sacred principles of individual and political freedom.
Suck it up, Lerner, and come clean.
The women want that past deposition and their future testimony to remain hidden from the public and only available to the lawyers involved in the case. They asked that the seal be permanent.
Ms. Lerner has refused to talk in public about her role in the targeting, famously engaging in a showdown with the House Oversight Committee after she appeared, delivered a statement of innocence and then balked at answering any questions.
The House eventually voted to hold her in contempt, but an Obama administration prosecutor — acting just hours before his resignation became effective — announced the Justice Department wouldn’t pursue the case.
House Republicans asked Wednesday that the Trump administration reopen the case. They say Ms. Lerner obstructed official investigations and pointed to evidence from emails in which Ms. Lerner mocked conservatives and Republicans as evidence of malice, which the GOP said helped foster the environment that led to tea party groups being targeted by the IRS.
The IRS still faces several legal cases stemming from the targeting.
The class action lawsuit involves 428 groups who were snared by the IRS targeting procedures. That case, which is being heard in a federal court in Ohio, is in the discovery phase, and Ms. Lerner and Ms. Paz are supposed to give testimony.
IRS officials also agreed to turn over the system reports it generated for each of the 428 groups targeted.
I don’t see how a federal judge could grant a request for secrecy in this matter. There is a compelling public interest in getting to the bottom of how this egregious violation of the civil rights of individuals and organizations could have come about. The people demand — and deserve — an answer.
One way or another — either through a DoJ investigation or a lawsuit — the truth is going to come out. That Lerner has been able to avoid serious scrutiny this long is due entirely to the rabid partisanship of the Eric Holder Department of Justice. The potential seriousness of what the IRS did — unprecedented in American history — was belied by Holder’s insistent refusal to give the investigation the kind of attention it deserved.
Lerner was held in contempt by Congress, but the DoJ refused to prosecute. It’s long past time to compel Lerner to tell us her role in the scandal and who else was responsible for this blatantly illegal activity.