The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Swamp

During the Obama years, the swamp closed ranks whenever one of the many scandals associated with his presidency emerged. Sure, half-hearted investigations were sometimes conducted, but it seems that the four constituencies—the Democrats, the media, the deep state and the GOP elite—just went through the motions—no one aggressively pursued the truth. No one was held in contempt, no one was granted blanket immunity so they could be compelled to testify, no one was held accountable. And ... sadly ... no one was surprised at the outcome.

Of all the Obama era scandals, probably the most serious was the IRS scandal. The Obama administration essentially weaponized the IRS to act against the president's opposition through a combination of audits, bureaucratic nonsense, and intimidation. They then lied about the origins of the weaponization, stonewalled any attempt to get at the truth, and played out the clock. No one was punished. By the way, Barack Obama assured us all that there wasn't even a "smidgen" of wrongdoing by the IRS ... not a smidgen. That was a lie.

Now we learn that Lois Lerner, a partisan bureaucrat who was the only IRS employee of any import named in the scandal is trying to suppress the public release of her closed-door testimony produced as part of a lawsuit initiated by an aggrieved Tea Party group. William McGurn comments:
Here’s how lawyers for Ms. Lerner and her former IRS deputy, Holly Paz, put it in a filing aimed at persuading a judge to keep their testimony from becoming public: “Public dissemination of their deposition testimony would expose them and their families to harassment and a credible risk of violence and physical harm.” They’re not just thinking of themselves, they add. Young children, family members, might be hurt too.

That’s quite an argument. So enraged would the American public become upon learning what Ms. Lerner and Ms. Paz said that they and those around them would be in physical peril. Which probably makes most people wonder what the heck must the two have said that would get everyone so agitated?

The Washington Times, which broke the story, notes this is not the first time Ms. Lerner has sought to keep the public in the dark about her actions. In 2014, when asked to testify before Congress about the IRS targeting, she declared her innocence—and then invoked her Fifth Amendment right to keep quiet.
One can only wonder what information is contained in Lerner's testimony that is so explosive that Lerner wants it sealed. I suspect the only people in "danger" aren't Lerner's family, but rather ex-officials within the Obama administration who orchestrated the IRS abuse.

McGurn continues:
In 2015, the Obama Justice Department declined to prosecute, explaining in a letter to Congress it “found no evidence that any IRS official acted based on political, discriminatory, corrupt or other inappropriate motives that would support a criminal prosecution.” But when Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced settlements of two lawsuits last month, he confirmed the IRS during the Obama years had targeted organizations for political beliefs and not bad behavior.

In some senses, this battle is because Congress did not do its job. It started down the right path when it held hearings, but once Ms. Lerner invoked the Fifth, then-Speaker John Boehner blinked. Instead of using Congress’s own powers—including its right, after she was found in contempt, to jail her until she talked—he settled for passing the buck to the Obama Justice Department with a recommendation for a prosecution everyone knew would never come.

Congress is still paying for that dereliction of duty. The various House and Senate investigations have been frustrated by lack of cooperation from relevant parties, including federal agencies such as the FBI. Surely Republicans investigating everything from Hillary Clinton’s emails to Russia’s mischief in the 2016 elections would today enjoy far more cooperation from the relevant parties had they exercised their full authority in the Lerner case. If we ever hope to restore the accountability the Constitution built into the system and avoid the corrupting habit of turning to special prosecutors, Congress is going to have to get serious about its authority as a coequal branch of government.
It appears that the "Congress" that McGurn refers to is toothless, caring only to promote the illusion of cleaning up government abuse. The swamp is alive and well and encroaching on our everyday lives. It should be drained, but that's not going to happen anytime soon. In fact, it's not going to happen -- ever.