To understand the latest outrage in the IRS scandal, mull over what might happen if regulators found significant evidence to implicate Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein in an insider trading scheme.
Let’s say Blankfein asserted his Fifth Amendment right not to answer any questions. Say Goldman was subpoenaed to provide all of Blankfein’s emails. Goldman replied that, instead of complying with the subpoena, it was itself reviewing the emails in question and was considering which ones to release.
Now imagine that, nearly a year later, Goldman admitted that it had not, in fact, reviewed the emails in question, because they had been lost in a computer crash two months before it claimed to be reviewing them. Imagine Goldman also said copies of the emails were lost, because while under subpoena, it had destroyed the “backup tapes” (whatever those are) that held them and that it had also thrown away Blankfein’s actual hard drive.
The thing about dogs eating homework is, it could actually happen. This can’t.
This is “The dog ate my hard drive, broke into another building, ate the backup of the hard drive, then broke into six other top officials’ offices and ate their hard drives also.”
What we learned about the IRS this week is that there is an obvious criminal coverup that comes in addition to the possible underlying crimes. Prosecutions need to be brought against all of those involved.
Why isn’t this happening already?
Remember the O.J. Simpson trial, the one that consumed seemingly the entire mid-’90s? From crime to verdict, the whole thing took 16 months.
The IRS scandal? It’s already been 13 months, and no one has even been charged. And no one will be charged. Congress has called the cops — the Justice Department — and the cops simply don’t care.
It’s as if Goldman’s only regulator was an SEC that was being run by Blankfein’s poker buddies.
Yes, the IRS scandal differs from Watergate. In Watergate, the president appointed an independent-minded special prosecutor to investigate. It was considered a scandal when the president fired that special counsel, Archibald Cox, even though Cox was succeeded within less than two weeks by an equally ferocious prosecutor, Leon Jaworski.
President Obama? He hasn’t even appointed a special prosecutor in the first place. That’s far worse.
In Watergate, we were outraged that President Richard Nixon ordered the IRS to go after political foes — even though the IRS refused to do his bidding. A Nixon ally was forced to whine that the IRS was controlled by Democrats.
There was evidently little or no evidence that IRS power was abused, because the second Article of Impeachment against Nixon charged merely that he “endeavored” to sic the IRS on enemies.
In the Obama administration, on the other hand, we know that the IRS went after political foes. We don’t know whether the president was involved, but if Nixon’s IRS had targeted liberals because it believed it had an implicit go-ahead from the boss, wouldn’t that be fairly disturbing also? Would a breezy dismissal from Nixon make you feel better?
Obama’s assertion that there was “not even a smidgeon of corruption” in the IRS’ attacks on right-wing groups does not reassure. Obama cannot have known there was no corruption given the mountain of evidence that has yet to be produced and now appears to have been destroyed. He could believe there was no corruption because he has faith in everyone who works under him, or he could know there was corruption and be lying about it, but he can’t know there was no corruption. It’s impossible.
For all he knows, there’s a Lois Lerner email that says, “I want you to go after these Tea Party bastards with everything you got. Use every trick you can to keep them on the sidelines for this election cycle. Nuke those fascists.”
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen is sworn in during a congressional hearing on the missing emails from the hard drive of former director Lois Lerner.Photo: Getty Images
Lerner wouldn’t have pleaded the Fifth unless she had reason to believe that there was potential illegality and it could be tied to her.
A likely explanation for Obama’s bizarre “smidgeon” remark is that his well-known fondness for left-wing opinion writers led him to simply parrot their dismissal of the scandal: If it’s good enough for Jonathan Chait, our president thinks, it’s good enough for me!
And here we come to a third major difference between the IRS’ apparent gross abuse of power and criminal coverup and Watergate: Watergate was a much bigger deal simply because the press was relentless about following up on every detail.
Today the media’s reasoning is roughly as follows: The IRS went after some conservative groups and is engaged in an illegal coverup. We also don’t like these groups, also believe they deserve special scrutiny, and also think there’s something inherently shady about conservatives (but not liberals) who try to buy political influence. If White House staff says they weren’t involved, we’ll take their word for it. Pardon us if we’d rather cover something more relevant to American lives today. Like the 82-year-old name of the football team that plays in DC.