Lost emails, destroyed hard drives, foot dragging, stonewalling, and a smirking, sneering IRS commissioner doing his best to obscure the truth — this has largely been the response by the Internal Revenue Service to investigations by Congress and FOIA requests from conservative groups trying to discover the truth about the IRS targeting scandal.
But one federal judge appears to be just as curious as the rest of us about what exactly the IRS was up to when it targeted conservative groups for special scrutiny in approving their tax-exempt status.
Judge Reggie B. Walton of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ordered the IRS last week to release the names of employees involved in targeting conservative and Tea Party groups. Walton also told the IRS to explain why groups were targeted and search for additional records in agency databases from May 2009 to March 2015.
The IRS has until Oct. 16 to complete its records search.
Walton’s order was a turning point for True the Vote President Catherine Engelbrecht in her legal battle with the IRS that began in 2013.
“We’ve come so far, and I believe that we are going to bring this thing to a head,” Engelbrecht told the Washington Examiner. “I believe we will see the IRS correct its ways, and as to accountability, I’d love to see some perp walks.”
Wouldn’t we all. But first, the truth. And tantalizing hints emerged last week that whatever the truth is may be recoverable.
Bopp and True the Vote previously requested documents from the IRS pertaining to the organization, but the agency has yet to turn over any documents, Bopp said.
But the tax agency finally admitted to having records on True the Vote.
In a conference call with Bopp several weeks ago, he said Justice Department lawyers representing the IRS said it performed a search of a database of documents compiled in response to congressional inquiries and found nearly 2,000 documents related to True the Vote.
“I was shocked there were 2,000 documents, and then I was doubly shocked when they hadn’t produce them,” he said. “You could’ve picked me up off the floor. They had them. They didn’t produce them, and they weren’t even going to tell us.”
A Justice Department spokeswoman told the Washington Examiner it will not comment on off-the-record discussions with opposing counsel.
“With respect to Judge Walton’s ruling, which was entered in the Linchpins of Libertycase, we are reviewing the order and will respond accordingly,” said Nicole Navas Oxman, the spokeswoman.
Likely included in the documents, Bopp said, are emails and records that tell the “kind of backstory of what they were really doing and why they were doing it.”
“They gave us the case file to True the Vote, but that’s sanitized. Those are the documents the IRS wants to be revealed,” he said. “It’s not the backstory. That’s like providing us with a newspaper. We want the discussions between reporters about the story.”
Although the arrogance of the IRS is breathtaking, it looks like they may have more than they can handle with Judge Walton. With the agency already proving that it tried to hide documents directly related to a FOIA request, how much nonsense will Walton put up with? He better have a low tolerance for word games and shenanigans by the IRS.
More names means more witnesses to be deposed under oath. Perhaps some promises of immunity are in order so that the truth can be wrung out of an agency that has been used to target the political opponents of a president and materially affect the ability of conservative groups to exercise their rights.