Anyone paying attention to the Internal Revenue Service scandal has been waiting for the next smidgen to drop. Well, two more hit pretty hard this week. At the president’s next encounter with the media, I will scream collusion if no one asks him for his exact definition of a “smidgen,” and if he thinks he has seen a smidgen of corruption yet. At this point, only the most gullible or culpable can continue to claim there is no compelling evidence in this case. Given the delays, lies and stonewalling, there is no viable argument against a special prosecutor.
In a stunning revelation this week, it was disclosed that former IRS official Lois Lerner told colleagues, “we need to be cautious about what we say in emails” and then proceeded to ask the IRS IT department, in an e-mail, “if [instant messaging] conversations were also searchable.” When she was told they were not, she e-mailed back, “Perfect.” This is a smoking gun e-mail in that it makes plain she had a cover-up in mind. There is no other plausible explanation.
Who knows how many of her colleagues and allies are breathing a sigh of relief upon learning that their e-mails to Lerner were destroyed and their instant messages not recorded? I think Lerner must have a sizable silent cheering section in Washington; people who are rooting for her to hang tough in pleading the Fifth and hoping that she does not go wobbly on them. I’ll bet her government retirement check is one check that never gets lost in the mail or delayed.
It gets even better. In another disclosure, Lerner’s attorney said that previous emphatic statements he had made declaring that Lerner did not print hard copies of her e-mails were not lies, just a “misunderstanding.” In this case, it is obvious what happened. When Team Lerner discovered that not keeping hard copies of some e-mails – which are considered government records – would in itself violate the law, it changed its story. It’s as simple as that.
The coordination among the Democrats and Lerner is remarkably brazen, even by today’s standards. While she lies low taking the Fifth, her mouthpieces in the Democratic caucus recite talking points that only she could approve. For example, during House oversight hearings on the scandal, Democrats seem to recite with great precision what Lerner did or did not do, what she knew and when she knew it. So while she hides the truth, protects her gang and stays clear of a perjury charge or worse, elected members of the Democratic party declare her innocence and tell her self-serving story.
Anyway, as long as Lerner stays cool and the Obama Department of Justice has her back, the administration obviously thinks it can run out the clock on this scandal. But these revelations are definitely meaningful smidgens. At what point does a flock of smidgens become irrefutable evidence that deserves an independent examination?
Thanks to House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and other GOP leaders who refuse to shrug and quit, the Democrats’ denials, excuses and alibis are getting harder to make. After all, in Washington being guilty is still a bothersome disadvantage.
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Ed Rogers writes a column for the Washington Post.