The Justice Department has decided that evidence is lacking to press criminal charges against a former official at the IRS, Lois Lerner, over tax exempt applicants.
In a letter sent to the top Republican and Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, Peter Kadzik, deputy attorney general, wrote that the investigation "uncovered substantial evidence of mismanagement, poor judgment and institutional inertia. ... But poor management is not a crime."
In the eight-page letter, the Justice Department said its investigation was "exhaustive," interviewing more than 100 people, collecting more than one million documents, and examining 500 tax-exempt applications.
The Justice Department probe opened in 2013 after tea-party affiliated groups alleged that they were being singled out and denied tax exempt status because of their political beliefs. An audit found that IRS employees identified the groups by searching for politically associated terms such as "tea party" and "patriots." Republicans alleged that the IRS was directed to target the groups from the White House.
Lerner, the head of the IRS at the time, resigned her position amid the scandal and was shepherded before congressional committees over the issue.
"We found no evidence that any IRS official acted based on political, discriminatory, corrupt, or other inappropriate motives that would support a criminal prosecution. We also found no evidence that any official involved in the handling of tax-exempt applications or IRS leadership attempted to obstruct justice," The Kadzik wrote. "Based on the evidence developed in this investigation and the recommendation of experienced career prosecutors and supervising attorneys at the Department, we are closing our investigation and will not seek any criminal charges."
Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said in a statement, "Today, the Justice Department confirmed the same conclusions we had years ago. Over the past five years, Republicans in the House of Representatives have squandered literally tens of millions of dollars going down all kinds of investigative rabbit holes – IRS, Planned Parenthood, Benghazi – with absolutely no evidence of illegal activity."
Rep. Darrell Issa, top Republican of the House Oversight Committee when the probe was opened, said the decision shows "there is no consequence for wrongdoing."
"Giving Lois Lerner a free pass only reinforces the idea that government officials are above the law and that there is no consequence for wrongdoing," he wrote.