The House majority leader on Friday called for Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint special counsel to investigate the Internal Revenue Service’s controversial treatment of certain advocacy groups during the past two election cycles.
Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said in a statement on Friday that an independent prosecutor should “bring the appropriate charges against those responsible” for the IRS’s targeting of tax-exemption applicants for extra scrutiny based on their names and policy positions.
“This is far too serious a matter to leave to the discretion of partisan political appointees, no matter who is in the White House,” Cantor said.
The House Ways and Means Committee voted last month along party lines to request that the Justice Department criminally prosecute former IRS official Lois Lerner for her involvement in the screening efforts. Cantor said the agency appears to have “taken no action on this referral.”
Similarly, Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), the panel’s chairman, said he is concerned that the DOJ has “brushed aside this investigation and will not pursue Lerner for the wrongdoing she committed.”
Justice Department spokesman Brian Fallon said the DOJ does not publicly disclose specific steps that the agency takes as part of an investigation. “We would not do that for any investigation,” he said. “But that should not be confused for inactivity.”
Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.), the ranking member of the Ways and Means Committee, issued a statement Friday describing Cantor’s request as “another desperate Republican effort to dredge up a political scandal.”
Lerner’s attorney, William Taylor, has repeatedly denied that his client broke any laws during her tenure as an IRS official.
Cantor’s statement also called on House lawmakers to support a proposal from Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Charles Boustany (R-La.) calling on Holder to appoint a special counsel.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has also already asked the Justice Department to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the IRS targeting matter. Holder declined the request, saying in a letter to the Republican lawmaker that “such an appointment is not warranted” and rejecting the notion that the case presents a conflict of interest for the administration.
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