The last week before Congress’ five-week August break is nearly always hectic, and this week was no exception. But for many on the right, one of the more important stories was largely overlooked.
Former IRS official Lois Lerner cursed conservatives in emails released on Wednesday, leading House Republicans to intensify their push for criminal charges.Lerner, in an email conversation with an undisclosed person, suggested that listeners to conservative talk radio were “a**holes.” […]Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) said he hoped the new documents would force Attorney General Eric Holder to take the criminal investigation into the IRS’s improper scrutiny of Tea Party groups more seriously.
In a separate email message released at the same time, Lerner described the far-right as “crazies.”
Because I’ve published quite a few pieces explaining why there is no actual IRS “scandal,” a handful of conservatives emailed this week to say, “See? This is proof.”
It’s hard to say, though, what exactly it’s proof of. For example, it’s not illegal to call someone an “a**hole” in an email. In fact, Lerner appears to have used language Republicans have used to describe each other – House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) described Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) as an “a**hole” earlier this year, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) has referred to some on the far-right as “crazies,” too.
Indeed, if Congress is shocked by Democratic officials in Democratic administrations who dislike conservative talk-radio listeners, we’re going to need quite a few fainting couches. The idea that this would intensify a “push for criminal charges” seems a little desperate.
That said, the story might be marginally more serious if there was evidence that Lerner was talking to another IRS official about conservative “a**holes,” as part of some kind of behind-the-scenes conspiracy, but as it turns out, that’s not even close to what happened.
A Democratic source flagged the actual email for me and as it turns out, Lerner was exchanging notes – sharing a few private thoughts – with her husband a few days after the 2012 elections, while on vacation.
Why would this prompt anyone to “take the criminal investigation into the IRS’s improper scrutiny of Tea Party groups more seriously”? I honestly don’t know.
Camp, whose committee publicized the messages, said this week, “In light of this new information, I hope DOJ will aggressively pursue this case and finally appoint a special counsel, so the full truth can be revealed and justice is served.”
But this “new information” just doesn’t tell us much of anything we didn’t already know. It may not be polite to send a private message to a spouse calling conservative talk-radio listeners “a**holes,” but that’s hardly the sort of thing federal prosecutors should get excited about.
It’s certainly possible that with enough digging, GOP lawmakers will uncover something more serious – though after a year of relentless investigation, it appears the well is dry – but if this is supposed to be proof of criminal wrongdoing, Republicans are pushing their luck.