Justice Dept.: No criminal charges for ex-IRS official

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No Criminal Prosecution in IRS Tea Party Case?


WASHINGTON (AP) -- Neither Lois Lerner nor any other IRS official will face criminal charges in the political controversy over the processing of applications for tax-exempt status, the Justice Department announced Friday.

The decision closes a two-year investigation into accusations that stoked outrage among Republicans in Congress, who alleged bias in the tax agency's treatment of conservative and tea party groups.

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In a letter notifying members of Congress of its decision, the Justice Department said that while investigators had found "mismanagement, poor judgment and institutional inertia," there was no evidence that any IRS employee had targeted a political group based on its viewpoints or obstructed justice.

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Justice Dept.: No criminal charges for ex-IRS official
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 05: Former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner exercises her Fifth Amendment right not to speak about the IRS targeting investigation before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee during a hearing in the Rayburn House Office Building March 5, 2014 in Washington, DC. Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) adjuourned after Lerner refused to answer questions about the investigation. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen testifies under subpoena before the House Oversight Committee as lawmakers continue their probe of whether tea party groups were improperly targeted for increased scrutiny by the IRS, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, June 23, 2014. The IRS asserts it can't produce emails from several officials connected to the tea party investigation because of computer crashes, including the emails from Lois Lerner, the former IRS official at the center of the investigation. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., right, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, joined at left by Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the ranking member, leads the questioning of Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen as lawmakers continue their probe of whether tea party groups were improperly targeted for increased scrutiny by the IRS, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, June 23, 2014. The IRS asserts it can't produce emails from seven officials connected to the tea party investigation because of computer crashes, including the emails from Lois Lerner, the former IRS official at the center of the investigation. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Former Internal Revenue Service counsel Jennifer O'Connor, right, currently of the White House Counsel's Office, with Archivist of the United Satates David Ferriero testifies before a House Committee on Oversight and Government hearing on "IRS Obstruction: Lois Lernerâs missing e-mails" on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Committee chairman Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) speaks during a markup session of the House Ways and Means Committee on Capitol Hill July 10, 2014 in Washington, DC. The committee marked up House Resolution 645 which requests White House emails to former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner from 2009 to 2011. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
US House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Darrell Issa calls the start of a hearing with Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner John Koskinen on 'IRS Obstruction: Lois Lerner's Missing E-Mails, Part I' on Capitol Hill in Washington on June 23, 2014. The hearing focused on the missing e-mails from the hard drive of former director of the IRS's Exempt Organizations Division Lois Lerner. AFP PHOTO/Nicholas KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner John Koskinen appears before a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on 'IRS Obstruction: Lois Lerner's Missing E-Mails, Part I' on Capitol Hill in Washington on June 23, 2014. The hearing focused on the missing e-mails from the hard drive of former director of the IRS's Exempt Organizations Division Lois Lerner. AFP PHOTO/Nicholas KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Lois Lerner, former director of the Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division at the Internal Revenue Service(IRS), leaves following a hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Capitol Hill March 5, 2014 in Washington, DC. Chairman Darrell Issa(R-CA) questioned Lerner, to see if the Internal Revenue Service has been targeting US citizens based on their political beliefs. Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment right not to testify. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 05: Former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner (C) exercises her Fifth Amendment right not to speak about the IRS targeting investigation before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee during a hearing in the Rayburn House Office Building March 5, 2014 in Washington, DC. Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) adjuourned after Lerner refused to answer questions about the investigation. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 05: House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) appears on a television screen during a hearing about the IRS targeting investigation in the Rayburn House Office Building March 5, 2014 in Washington, DC. Issa adjuourned after former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner exercised her Fifth Amendment right not to speak about the IRS targeting scandal during the hearing. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Ranking member Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) speaks after he and Chairman Darrell Issa, R-CA, butted heads during a hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Capitol Hill March 5, 2014 in Washington, DC. Issa questioned witness Lois Lerner, former director of the Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division at the Internal Revenue Service(IRS), during the hearing to see if the Internal Revenue Service has been targeting US citizens based on their political beliefs. Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment right not to testify. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) departs after adjourning a hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Capitol Hill March 5, 2014 in Washington, DC. Issa questioned witness Lois Lerner, former director of the Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division at the Internal Revenue Service(IRS), during the hearing to see if the Internal Revenue Service has been targeting US citizens based on their political beliefs. Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment right not to testify. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Lois Lerner emails obtained from the House Ways and Means Committee are displayed in Washington, Wednesday, July 30, 2014. A former IRS official at the heart of the agency's tea party controversial called Republicans "crazies" and more in newly released emails. Lois Lerner used to head the IRS division that handles applications for tax-exempt status. In a series of emails with a colleague in November 2012, Lerner made two disparaging remarks about members of the GOP, including one remark that was profane. Republican Rep. Dave Camp, who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, released the emails Wednesday as part of his committee's investigation. Camp says the emails show Lerner's disgust with conservatives. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Lois Lerner emails obtained from the House Ways and Means Committee are displayed in Washington, Wednesday, July 30, 2014. A former IRS official at the heart of the agency's tea party controversial called Republicans "crazies" and more in newly released emails. Lois Lerner used to head the IRS division that handles applications for tax-exempt status. In a series of emails with a colleague in November 2012, Lerner made two disparaging remarks about members of the GOP, including one remark that was profane. Republican Rep. Dave Camp, who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, released the emails Wednesday as part of his committee's investigation. Camp says the emails show Lerner's disgust with conservatives. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
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"We found no evidence that any IRS official acted based on political, discriminatory, corrupt or other inappropriate motives that would support a criminal prosecution," the letter stated.

A firestorm erupted more than two years ago with the release of an inspector general's audit that said IRS agents had improperly singled out tea party and other conservative groups for extra scrutiny during the 2010 and 2012 elections. The disclosure set off investigations by the Justice Department and multiple congressional committees, and Republicans routinely pressed FBI and Justice Department officials for updates on the probe - as recently as Thursday - during their visits to Capitol Hill.

Lerner, who headed the division that processes applications for tax-exempt status at the time and has since retired, became the public face of the controversy. She was held in contempt of Congress by the House of Representatives after she refused to answer questions at two House Oversight Committee hearings.

Federal investigators repeatedly interviewed Lerner and looked into whether she should face charges, particularly after the discovery of emails from her personal IRS account that "expressed her personal political views," according to the Justice Department letter.

But prosecutors said none of the IRS employees they interviewed suggested that Lerner discriminated against conservatives while on the job. They said that while she used poor judgment to use her IRS account for personal messages, there was no evidence that Lerner had "exercised her decision-making authority in a partisan manner generally."

Her attorney, William Taylor, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

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