The Department of Justice told members of Congress Friday that it wouldn't reconsider the question of whether to prosecute former IRS official Lois Lerner for her role in the tax agency's targeting of conservative groups, eliciting criticism from House Republicans.
After being asked by Republicans in April to take a "fresh look" at the case against Lerner, the Trump administration responded Friday that it had reviewed the case and decided against it.
"[T]he Department determined that reopening the criminal investigation would not be appropriate based on the available evidence," Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd wrote in a letter to Kevin Brady, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
Brady called that a "terrible decision" that suggested political appointees are not held accountable under the law.
"I have the utmost respect for Attorney General [Jeff] Sessions, but I'm troubled by his Department's lack of action to fully respond to our request and deliver accountability," the Texas lawmaker said in a statement.
Peter Roskam, the Illinois chairman of the tax subcommittee, also criticized the decision, terming it "a miscarriage of justice."
Previously, the lawmakers had suggested that the Obama Department of Justice had declined to prosecute Lerner in 2015 because it was taking political cues from Obama. In 2014, their committee had voted to refer Lerner to the Justice Department for prosecution for her role in the targeting scandal.
From 2010 to 2012, Lerner led the division of the IRS that subjected some nonprofit organizations, including Tea Party and conservative groups, to added scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status, a controversy that she acknowledged in response to a planted question at an event in 2013.
Brady's panel concluded that Lerner influenced the division to target right-leaning groups.
Boyd wrote Friday that the department "carefully reviewed" its original 2015 decision not to prosecute, and had new attorneys independently review the investigation. He said that to convict Lerner, it would be necessary to prove that she intentionally discriminated against the groups based on their political views.
"I assure you that the Department has carefully studied the law, given the evidence the utmost consideration, and thoroughly reviewed the prior investigation from an objective perspective," he wrote.