Imagine that the Trump administration was singling out left-wing groups for discrimination, repression or punishment through both the revenue and justice system.
I think we can all guess what the reaction would be: foaming outrage across the media, furious editorials and op-eds, dissection of Trump’s vicious sectarian and vindictive personality and the charge that the US had turned into a fascist state.
Evidence has now surfaced confirming long-held claims that the Obama administration targeted conservative groups in just this way, and then tried to cover it up. Yet the media reaction has been muted, with coverage consisting mostly of brief news stories.
Of course: according to most of the media,Trump can do no right and the left can do no wrong. Well, now that story is beginning to turn on its head.
The Internal Revenue Service scandal erupted in 2013 with claims that the IRS was singling out Tea-Party and other conservative groups for discriminatory and punitive treatment as the result of the animus of the Obama administration against its political opponents.
Over the years, there have been numerous investigations and hearings and with the IRS official at the centre of the controversy, Lois Lerner, pleading the Fifth Amendment to avoid testifying to a Congressional committee.
Now the Department of Justice has reached an undisclosed monetary settlement, reportedly consisting of millions of dollars, with more than 400 conservative groups which had their applications for tax exempt status delayed “based solely on their viewpoint or ideology”.
“The IRS admits that its treatment of plaintiffs during the tax-exempt determination process, including screening their applications based on their names or policy positions, subjecting those applications to heightened scrutiny and inordinate delays, and demanding some plaintiffs’ information that TITA determined was unnecessary to the agency’s determination of their tax-exempt status, was wrong,” the IRS said in court documents. “For such treatment, the IRS expresses its sincere apology.”
Strikingly, both the IRS and DoJ are now blaming Ms Lerner, the former IRS official who oversaw the division responsible for handling non-profit status applications.
Not only the Obama Justice Department but also the Trump Justice Department previously cleared Ms Lerner of wrongdoing. Last month, Assistant Attorney General Stephen E. Boyd said after re-reviewing the case the DoJ had concluded there wasn’t enough evidence to charge her – although if new information came to light the decision could be revisited.
Yet the settlement singles out Ms Lerner, the only IRS employee it mentions by name, saying:
“The then-Director of the [exempt organizations] Division, Lois Lerner, first became aware that the IRS received applications from Tea Party groups as early as April or May 2010. For the next two years, Lerner failed to adequately manage the EO Division employees who processed these applications.”
Why not? Ms Lerner has been described as personally apolitical and professionally scrupulous. We surely haven’t got to the bottom of this yet.
The settlement comes days after the House Judiciary Committee released internal Obama administration DoJ emails, some of which revealed the agency selectively funnelled big banks’ predatory lending settlement money to liberal non-profits to the exclusion of conservative organisations.
These email exchanges show DoJ officials hand-picking liberal advocacy groups to which to funnel around $1 billion of settlement funds to the explicit exclusion of conservative organisations. As House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte argued, the Obama DOJ practices amounted to the creation of a “slush fund” used to channel money to left-wing groups.
In the media and Democrat party narrative, Donald Trump is the proto-fascist and the left are the heroic defenders of democracy and law. But the reason so many people voted for Trump is what one of the IRS victims tearfully told the Congressional committee: that she feared her country was becoming unrecognisable as a nation of laws.
Trump was elected principally to restore respect for the American constitution and uphold the rule of law which had been so badly undermined by the Obama administration. It is that fact which the left is intent on denying. But as the evidence mounts, how long can it continue at all plausibly to do so?