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April 02, 2015

Justice Dept. Will Not Pursue Lois Lerner Contempt Case

Lois Lerner, the former head of the Internal Revenue Service's nonprofit division, will not face criminal contempt charges for refusing to answer congressional questions about the agency's alleged targeting of political organizations, The Washington Post and Politico report. Ronald Machen, the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, told House Speaker John Boehner in a letter this week that the Justice Department will not take the case to a grand jury. 

The House of Representatives voted along party lines last year to hold Ms. Lerner in contempt after she refused to testify before a committee investigating IRS treatment of conservative groups seeking nonprofit status. Representative Darrell Issa, then-chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, argued that Ms. Lerner had waived her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination by asserting her innocence in an opening statement.

Mr. Machen rejected that view, saying Ms. Lerner's "general claims of innocence" did not abrogate her constitutional rights. She and other IRS officials remain under federal investigation for possible criminal activities related to what Republicans contend was politicized enforcement that singled out Tea Party groups.