A federal court has dealt a huge blow to former President Barack Obama by ordering the release of the testimonies of top Inland Revenue Service (IRS) officials who targeted conservative non-profit groups.
The testimony of Lois Lerner, former director of the Exempt Organizations Unit of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and Holly Paz, her top aide and former IRS director of Office of Rulings and Agreements, will now be unsealed.
Lerner and Paz are the two IRS officials at the center of the scandal surrounding the targeting of conservative nonprofit groups and individuals opposed to Obama policies before the 2012 presidential election.
The testimonies were ordered to be released following a lawsuit from political watchdog group Judicial Watch.
“Lois Lerner’s IRS was abused by Obama and his congressional allies to suppress the Tea Party movement and other opponents in the run-up to his reelection,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.
“The Obama IRS scandal was a run-through for the abuse of Trump in 2016 and beyond by Obama agencies and appointees.
“These depositions of Obama’s IRS officials will help Americans understand the continued clear and present danger of the IRS to our civil liberties.”
Obama IRS Scandal! Court orders release of Lois Lerner deposition in IRS abuse case! Obama abused IRS to suppress Tea Party/opponents in run-up to 2012 election. This is how one steals an election in plain sight. And was run-through for 2016 abuse of Trump https://t.co/7rxYnouNWC pic.twitter.com/eeSzEALtBS
— Tom Fitton (@TomFitton) June 23, 2022
Judicial Watch also issued a statement that said:
“The ruling in the U.S. District Court Southern District of Ohio Western Division unsealing the case records comes in the lawsuit (NorCal Tea Party Patriots, et al. v. The Internal Revenue Service, et al. (No. 1:13-cv-00341)).
“Lerner’s and Paz’s depositions were sealed by Judge Barrett in April 2017, after Lerner’s and Paz’s lawyers claimed the two officials were receiving threats.
“The court finally ordered the unsealing of the depositions four years after plaintiffs requested the depositions be unsealed and only after plaintiffs filed for a writ of mandamus to force action in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
“In December 2017, Judicial Watch submitted an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief in support of plaintiffs’ request that the depositions should be unsealed.
“Judicial Watch argued that the release of the deposition transcripts “may shed light on government misconduct … on the grounds that shielding internal government deliberations in this context does not serve the public’s interest in honest, effective government.
“The courts have long recognized a “strong presumption in favor of openness as to court records,” the brief continues.
“The burden of overcoming that presumption is borne by the party that seeks to seal them.
“The burden is a heavy one: ‘Only the most compelling reasons can justify non-disclosure of judicial records.’
“Moreover, the greater the public interest in the litigation’s subject matter, the greater the showing necessary to overcome the presumption of access,” the statement said.
The original NorCal Tea Party Patriots lawsuit in which Lerner and Paz gave depositions was a class-action lawsuit against the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of the Treasury and named individual officials claiming that: “Elements within the Executive Branch of the federal government, including Defendants, brought the vast powers, incomprehensible complexity, and crushing bureaucracy of the IRS to bear on groups of citizens whose only wrongdoing was their presumed dissent from the policies or ideology of the Administration.”
In other words, these citizens were targeted based upon their political viewpoints.
The lawsuit was settled in 2017 when the Justice Department awarded the plaintiffs over $3.5 million for “attorneys’ fees, costs and expenses, and incentive awards.”
In settling the case, the Department of Justice admitted that the IRS abused its power and the criteria it used to screen applications for 501(c) status was inappropriate.
Then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions stated:
“The IRS’ use of these criteria as a basis for heightened scrutiny was wrong and should never have occurred.
“It is improper for the IRS to single out groups for different treatment based on their names or ideological positions.
“Any entitlement to tax exemption should be based on the activities of the organization and whether they fulfill requirements of the law, not the policy positions adopted by members or the name chosen to reflect those views.
“Despite these admissions of wrongdoing, the Obama IRS scandal resulted in no criminal charges.”