U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan had ordered the IRS on July 1 to turn over Lerner emails on a weekly basis in response to a lawsuit by the watchdog group Judicial Watch.
The lawsuit focused on the 2013 scandal in which the IRS acknowledged agents had improperly singled out Tea Party and other conservative groups for extra scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status during the 2010 and 2012 elections.
However at a U.S. District Court hearing in Washington Wednesday, Sullivan threatened to hold officials, including Koskinen, in contempt for not producing the documents as ordered every Monday.
“If there is further noncompliance, I will haul into court the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service to show cause why that person should not be personally held in contempt of court. I can’t make that any clearer,” the judge told Geoffrey Klimas, the Justice Department attorney representing the IRS, according to the minutes published on Judicial Watch’s website.
The judge dismissed the reasons provided by the IRS and the DOJ for not producing the documents, at one point saying, “I think the government’s position is clearly indefensible. It’s ridiculous. It’s absurd.”
Sullivan went on to warn Klimas that he was not immune from being held in contempt either.
You’re in a very difficult position, but you’re walking out of court with your colleagues,” Sullivan said. “That might not always be the case, okay?”
“Of course, the IRS will comply with the judge’s order,” the IRS said in a subsequent written statement, according to The Wall Street Journal.
“The missing and-then-not missing Lois Lerner saga is a stark example of the Obama administration’s contempt for a federal court and the rule of law,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said.“That Obama administration officials would risk jail rather than disclose these Lerner documents shows that the IRS scandal has just gotten a whole lot worse.”
“We praise this order by Judge Sullivan as the IRS and Department of Justice have continually provided cover for Lois Lerner and the Obama administration in the IRS scandal,” Mark Meckler, president and founder of Citizens for Self-Governance said in a statement.
“We will continue to fight until justice is served and Ms. Lerner and the IRS are held fully accountable for their unlawful, political persecution of innocent American citizens,” Meckler said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.