New Special Counsel Investigating Trump Linked to IRS Misconduct by Congress

Efthymis Oraiopoulos
By Efthymis Oraiopoulos
November 23, 2022Politics
New Special Counsel Investigating Trump Linked to IRS Misconduct by Congress
Prosecutor Jack Smith of the U.S. in a courtroom at The Hague on Nov. 10, 2020. (Peter Dejong/ANP/AFP via Getty Images)

Jack Smith, the recently appointed special counsel in two probes involving former president Donald Trump, has been linked to IRS misconduct targeting conservative groups during the Obama era, leading to further concerns over his impartiality.

In 2010 when Smith was chief of the DOJ’s Public Integrity Section, he set up a meeting between his department and IRS official Lori Lois Lerner, according to a 2014 letter from Congress, reported Just the News.

The letter was issued by the House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to the then DOJ Attorney General Eric Holder. It was signed by committee chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and member Jim Jordan(R-Ohio).

The committee took the information from an obtained testimony made by Richard Pilger, director of DOJ’s Election Crimes branch.

According to Pilger, Smith asked him to arrange a meeting with the IRS in Oct. 2010 about the “evolving legal landscape” of campaign finance law following the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission” decision.

Pilger’s testimony revealed that Smith’s meeting with Lerner focussed on discussing more aggressive enforcement of regulations barring tax-exempt groups from engaging in politics, reported Just the News.

“By encouraging the IRS to be vigilant in possible campaign-finance crimes by 501(c)(4) groups, the Department was certainly among the entities ‘screaming’ at the IRS to do something in the wake of Citizens United before the 2010 election,” read the 2014 letter from Congress.

DOJ’s Smith also reengaged with the IRS in 2013 on possible criminal enforcement relating to political speech by non-profits. IRS’s Lerner even helped the DOJ prepare for a related hearing, according to the letter from Congress.

“It is apparent that the Department’s leadership, including Public Integrity Section Chief Jack Smith, was closely involved in engaging with the IRS in wake of the Citizens United and political pressure from prominent Democrats to address perceived problems with the decision,” the letter said.

The Treasury Department Inspector General (IG) on May 14, 2013, concluded that the IRS’s pursuit of conservative non-profits was inappropriate.

“The IRS used inappropriate criteria that identified for review Tea Party and other organizations applying for tax-exempt status based upon their names or policy positions instead of indications of potential political campaign intervention,” the IG found.

Conviction Overturned by Supreme Court

Concerns over Smith’s impartiality have been further heightened by his prosecution of a prominent Republican that was overturned as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2015, reported Just the News.

Smith’s Public Integrity Section had proceeded with the prosecution of then-Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, the outlet reported.

According to the official statement from the Supreme Court, the federal government had proceeded with McDonnell’s prosecution.

The result was a jury conviction on 11 felony counts alleging the GOP governor’s family accepted $175,000 worth of “loans, gifts, and other benefits” in return for official public acts.

But the Supreme Court overturned the conviction, finding its definition of political actions wrong.

“Because the jury was not correctly instructed on the meaning of ‘official act,’ it may have convicted Governor McDonnell for conduct that is not unlawful,” according to the Supreme Court’s decision.

“There is no doubt that this case is distasteful; it may be worse than that,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the Supreme Court statement. “But our concern is not with tawdry tales of Ferraris, Rolexes, and ball gowns. It is instead with the broader legal implications of the Government’s boundless interpretation of the federal bribery statute. A more limited interpretation of the term ‘official act’ leaves ample room for prosecuting corruption, while comporting with the text of the statute and the precedent of this Court.

“The judgment of the Court of Appeals is vacated, and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.”

Smith’s Appointment

Most recently, Smith was a prosecutor for the special court in The Hague responsible for investigating and adjudicating war crimes. He was appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland on Nov. 18 to be special counsel in two probes involving Trump.

Smith is charged with overseeing the ongoing investigation into Trump’s handling of classified and presidential records at Mar-a-Lago, as well as the Washington-based probe into whether there was unlawful interference with the transfer of power after the 2020 election or the certification of the electoral college vote on Jan. 6, 2021.

After being appointed special prosecutor on Friday, Smith resigned from his position at The Hague.

“I intend to conduct the assigned investigations, and any prosecutions that may result from them, independently and in the best traditions of the Department of Justice,” Smith said.

Trump commented on Smith’s appointment calling the move a “horrendous abuse of power,” a “hoax,” and part of a string of politically-motivated “witch hunts.”

Cathy He and Tom Ozimek contributed to this report.

ntd newsletter icon
Sign up for NTD Daily
What you need to know, summarized in one email.
Stay informed with accurate news you can trust.
By registering for the newsletter, you agree to the Privacy Policy.