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DOJ official named in FBI politicization allegations played role in Lois Lerner IRS scandal


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A senior Justice Department official recently flagged by a U.S. senator in an FBI whistleblower probe into alleged politicization of prosecutions played a key role in the Lois Lerner IRS scandal a decade ago in which conservative Tea Party groups were improperly targeted for scrutiny, government emails and congressional evidence shows


Richard Pilger, the current chief of the DOJ Elections Crime Branch of the department's Public Integrity Section, engaged in discussions in 2010 and 2013 with Lerner and other IRS officials about ways to pursue criminal prosecutions of conservative nonprofits, the records show.

The discussion led the FBI, with Pilger's direct help, to obtain and review 1.1 million pages of documents from conservative groups and even ponder charging the groups with making false statements on their IRS applications as nonprofits because they had engaged in political speech activities, according to congressional investigators.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, chaired then by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), concluded in 2014 that Pilger's discussions were part of a larger effort by the Obama administration to criminalize political speech by conservative groups that opposed the administration's agenda.

"These documents suggest that the Department actively considered prosecuting non-profit groups for their political activities," the final report concluded. "The Department went so far as to meet with the IRS about the investigation and to gather a 1.1 million-page database of information as potential evidentiary material. Even more astounding, the Department considered prosecuting non-profit groups for actions that are legal for 501(c)(4) groups under federal tax law — that is, for engaging in political speech.":snip:

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