Judicial Watch Asks Court to Force Justice Department to Release Number of Hours Worked on Criminal Inquiry into Obama IRS Abuses

(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that the Obama Department of Justice (DOJ) is going to extreme lengths to keep from the public the number of hours DOJ Attorney Barbara Bosserman expended on the investigation of the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative organizations.  The DOJ has claimed no less than four separate privileges in federal court to keep secret Bosserman’s hours. In doing so, the DOJ has confirmed that the criminal investigation into the IRS’ abuses is ongoing and that Bosserman, a major donor to Obama’s political campaigns and Democratic National Committee, continues to be part of the team of lawyers criminally investigating the issue.  The developments come in a lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch against the Justice Department to obtain the information about Bosserman’s activities.

In a January 14, 2015, legal filing, Judicial Watch lawyers not only asked the court to reject the Justice Department’s secrecy arguments but to review the documents at issue itself and rule summarily for Judicial Watch. The lawsuit is before U.S. District Court Judge Beryl A. Howell and is pending in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia (Judicial Watch, Inc. vs. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:14-cv-01024)).  Judicial Watch notes in its filing:

[Judicial Watch] does not seek information describing the type of work Ms. Bosserman conducted. Nor does it seek information about how she spent her time. Nor does it seek Ms. Bosserman’s notes about locations visited, persons consulted, staff briefings, and other case developments. Again, [Judicial Watch] solely seeks information about the number of hours Ms. Bosserman expended on the aforementioned criminal investigation. Nevertheless, Defendant claims everything but the kitchen sink in its effort to withhold the time records in their entirety.

In early January 2014, Bosserman was reportedly appointed by Attorney General Eric Holder to oversee the DOJ/ FBI investigation despite her substantial political activities.  According to Federal Election Commission records, Bosserman contributed $6,750 to Obama’s campaigns and the DNC from 2004 to 2012, including 12 separate contributions to Obama for America between 2008 and 2012. In a strongly worded letter to Holder, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform chairman Darryl Issa (R-CA) called the Bosserman appointment “a startling conflict of interest [that has] compromised the Administration’s investigation of the IRS.”

Judicial Watch filed a February 2014 Freedom of Information Act request seeking:

All Justice Department records from the Interactive Case Management System [a web-based system for storing and accessing information about contacts, calendars, cases, documents, time tracking, and billing, etc.] detailing the number of hours DOJ Attorney Barbara Bosserman expended on the investigation of the Internal Revenue Service targeting conservative organizations seeking tax-exempt status in the 2010 and 2012 elections cycles.

Despite this request for limited information, it took the DOJ five months to reject Judicial Watch’s request, writing in a letter on June 26, 2014, that releasing the information would be an “unwarranted invasion” of Ms. Bosserman’s privacy.  Prior to receiving that response, Judicial Watch sued the Justice Department under the Freedom of Information Act.

In November 2014, the Justice Department filed a Motion for Summary Judgment in which DOJ lawyers confirm Ms. Bosserman’s involvement in the investigation but state that, “there is no public interest served by revealing Ms. Bosserman’s time records … as Ms. Bosserman is only one member of a larger investigative team.”  This characterization seems at odds with statements by the Department of Justice, administration witnesses, Congress, and press reports that Ms. Bosserman, a senior legal counsel in the Civil Rights Division, is leading the investigation.

The DOJ’s legal brief included a declaration by Justice Department FOIA official Nelson D. Hemilla that states under “penalty of perjury”:

The Justice Department is currently conducting a criminal investigation into alleged misconduct by IRS employees in connection with their handling of applications for tax-exempt status by certain organizations.  The investigation is being conducted by career civil servants in the Civil Rights Division and the Public Integrity Section of the Criminal Division, as well as agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.”

(Curiously, the Obama Justice Department’s November 2014 legal filing that describes its limited investigation of improper IRS targeting does not acknowledge that “certain organizations” at issue in the IRS matter were Tea Party, conservative, or opposed to President Obama’s policies.)

Separate Judicial Watch lawsuits forced the release of IRS and Justice Department documents that implicate the Justice Department, its Public Integrity Section, and Obama supporters in Congress in the IRS abuse scandal.  These Judicial Watch disclosures also led to the discovery by Congress that the FBI had obtained, illegally, over a million pages of IRS files.  Under Justice Department regulations:

The Attorney General, or in cases in which the Attorney General is recused, the Acting Attorney General, will appoint a Special Counsel when he or she determines that criminal investigation of a person or matter is warranted and–(a) That investigation or prosecution of that person or matter by a  United States Attorney’s Office or litigating Division of the Department of Justice would present a conflict of interest for the Department or other extraordinary circumstances; and (b) That under the circumstances, it would be in the public  interest to appoint an outside Special Counsel to assume responsibility for the matter.”

“All Judicial Watch wants is the number of hours that the Obama donor/Justice Department lawyer has spent investigating the worst IRS abuse in American history,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “That the Justice Department has violated the law to keep this information secret is further confirmation that President Obama’s Justice Department is hopelessly conflicted in the IRS scandal.  Thanks to Judicial Watch, the public knows that the Justice Department and the FBI are co-conspirators with the IRS – and planned to prosecute citizens on Obama’s political hit list.  Obama’s IRS abuse is far worse than Nixon’s.  And as with Watergate, the public interest and basic legal ethics principles require that the U.S. Attorney General appoint special counsel to investigate the IRS scandal.  The U.S. Senate should ask Loretta Lynch, the president’s nominee to replace the disgraced Eric Holder as U.S. Attorney General, about this issue.”