Texas Senator Ted Cruz grilled FBI Director James Comey about allegations that the IRS targeted members of the Tea Party during his appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.
“This committee has had substantial focus also on the practice of the previous IRS of targeting citizens and citizen groups based on their political speech, political views, and perceived political opposition to President Obama,” Cruz asked the FBI director. “And the previous Department of Justice, both Attorneys General Holder and Lynch, in my view stonewalled that investigation. Is the FBI currently investigating the FBI’s — or rather the IRS’ unlawful targeting of citizens for exercising political speech?”
Comey responded by asking if he meant “the investigation focusing on, particularly, groups allegedly associated with the tea party?” Which Cruz informed him that he was.
“We completed that investigation and the department declined prosecution. We worked very hard on it, put a lot of people on it, but couldn’t make what we thought was a case. And to my knowledge, it has not been reopened,” Comey said.
Relentless and determined to get answers, Cruz asked, “so, did the FBI recommend prosecution? You said you couldn’t make the case.”
“No, we couldn’t prove — again, the challenges of intent, we couldn’t prove that anybody was targeting these folks because they were conservatives or associated with the tea party. We worked very hard to see if we could make that case, we couldn’t get there,” Comey stated.
In 2014, watchdog group Judicial Watch released a batch of documents revealing that there was extensive pressure on the IRS by Democratic Senator Carl Levin to shut down tax-exempt organizations associated with the Tea Party.
“One key email string from July 2012 confirms that IRS Tea Party scrutiny was directed from Washington, DC. On July 6, 2010, Holly Paz (the former Director of the IRS Rulings and Agreements Division and current Manager of Exempt Organizations Guidance) asks IRS lawyer Steven Grodnitzky ‘to let Cindy and Sharon know how we have been handling Tea Party applications in the last few months.’ Cindy Thomas is the former director of the IRS Exempt Organizations office in Cincinnati and Sharon Camarillo was a Senior Manager in their Los Angeles office.”
Grodnitzky, a top lawyer in the Exempt Organization Technical unit (EOT) in Washington, DC, responded:
“EOT is working the Tea party applications in coordination with Cincy. We are developing a few applications here in DC and providing copies of our development letters with the agent to use as examples in the development of their cases. Chip Hull [another lawyer in IRS headquarters] is working these cases in EOT and working with the agent in Cincy, so any communication should include him as well. Because the Tea party applications are the subject of an SCR [Sensitive Case Report], we cannot resolve any of the cases without coordinating with Rob.”
In 2016, three years after the IRS admitted to targeting tea party groups for additional scrutiny, a list of the 426 affected organizations was released.
“Sixty of the groups on the list released last month have the word “tea” in their name, 33 have ‘patriot,’ eight refer to the Constitution, and 13 have ‘912’ in their name — which is the monicker of a movement started by conservatives. Another 26 group names refer to ‘liberty,’ though that list does include some groups that are not discernibly conservative in orientation,” the Washington Times reported in June of last year.
Wednesday marked one year since Cruz dropped out of the presidential race, a top aide to the senator reminded Big League Politics.
Romney, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski Emerge as Republican Red Flags in Potential SCOTUS Confirmation
They say they’ll vote ‘No.’
Republican Senators Mitt Romney of Utah, Susan Collins of Maine, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska have emerged as early ‘red flags’ in the push to appoint a new Supreme Court justice, with the latter two senators having spoken openly of their refusal to vote for a new justice in the runup to a presidential election. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg died on Friday, opening up a vacancy on the court.
Collins allegedly told a New York Times reporter that she wouldn’t vote for a new SCOTUS justice in ‘October’ earlier this month.
News: @SenatorCollins told me earlier this month in Maine that she would not seat a Supreme Court justice in October.
“I think that’s too close, I really do,” she said.
— Jonathan Martin (@jmartNYT) September 19, 2020
Murkowski told a reporter with Alaska Public Media that she wouldn’t vote for a new justice before the election, either.
— Liz Ruskin (@lruskin) September 18, 2020
Reports emerged on Friday night that Romney would decline to vote for a court confirmation as well, although they’re yet to be verified.
— Jim Dabakis (@JimDabakis) September 19, 2020
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is pledging to hold confirmation proceedings for a potential Trump Supreme Court nominee, suggesting that a nominee would receive a Senate floor vote before the election. He distinguished between the 2016 blocked nomination of Merrick Garland and the vacancy that arose from the death of Ginsberg, pointing out that a Republican President would be nominating a justice for confirmation through a Republican Senate.
It may be possible to confirm a new SCOTUS justice without the votes of the three-liberally inclined Senate Republicans, as a justice can be confirmed with 50 votes and a vice presidential tiebreaker. Other Republican Senators under the pressure of an ongoing campaign, such as Arizona’s Martha McSally, spoke in favor of the Senate having a floor vote on a tentative Trump administration SCOTUS nominee.
This U.S. Senate should vote on President Trump's next nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court.
— Martha McSally (@SenMcSallyAZ) September 19, 2020
This could be the most heated Supreme Court confirmation process in history, and some the Senate Republican’s members have already confirmed they’re not standing with conservatives.
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