IRS gets lashing from judge for refusing to release Lerner emails, other documents

A federal judge Wednesday rebuked the Obama administration’s IRS for refusing to divulge documents, including Lois G. Lerner’s emails, and warned that he would hold in contempt those who break his orders. Judge Emmet G. Sullivan called the administration’s defense “nonsensical” and said the IRS must release documents every Monday to Judicial Watch, a conservative public interest law firm that requested the documents under open records laws and then sued after the IRS didn’t comply. “Officers of the court who fail to comply with court orders will be held in contempt,” Judge Sullivan said in a published order. At a July 1 hearing, he ordered the IRS to turn over documents weekly. But after the hearing, the IRS approached Judicial Watch and proposed a new schedule. Judicial Watch said it would accept the schedule but wanted the IRS to make it official with the court — something the IRS refused to do. Judge Sullivan was not pleased. He noted that the government attorneys agreed that his initial instructions were clear but violated them anyway. “The government’s reasoning is nonsensical,” the judge wrote. The warning was issued even as the White House affirmed President Obama’s faith in the leadership of IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, who top Republicans have said should be ousted for failing to right the troubled agency. Mr. Koskinen “is a man of the highest integrity,” said White House deputy press secretary Eric Schultz, who called him “the right person to lead this agency.” Rep. Jason Chaffetz, Utah Republican and chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, made his request Monday in a letter to Mr. Obama. He argued that Mr. Koskinen has repeatedly obstructed congressional investigations into the agency’s political targeting of taxpayers, and that the president vowed in 2013 to “work hand-in-hand with Congress to fix the problem.”

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