The U.S. Justice Department "has so many conflicts" in the IRS scandal that the only way to investigate the agency properly for targeting conservative groups is through a special prosecutor, top Washington attorney Cleta Mitchell told Newsmax.
"I just don't see how it's possible that they can conduct a proper investigation," Mitchell, who represented 10 groups were singled out for special screening in their applications for tax-exempt status, said in an exclusive interview. "It needs to be conducted and prosecuted by a special counsel.
"It's high time the Justice Department did what it should do: get out of way — and [Attorney General] Eric Holder needs to appoint a special counsel."
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said on Friday that the Republican-controlled House would vote next Thursday
on whether to ask Holder to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the Internal Revenue Service for singling out conservative, tea party and religious groups.
On the same day, the House will decide whether to hold embattled former IRS supervisor Lois Lerner in contempt for refusing to testify twice to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on the scandal.
Lerner, who retired last year, headed the department that evaluated the applications from nonprofit organizations. The unit was found to have singled out the group for specialized screening that often involved unusual delays and detailed information requests.
The scrutiny started in 2010 and continued to just before the 2012 presidential election. The Justice Department has been investigating the controversy, but no charges have been filed.
Documents released last month by Judicial Watch showed that Lerner last year discussed working with Justice
to prosecute nonprofit organizations that she felt had "lied" about their political activities.
She also met with Justice officials about the scandal in recent months
, her attorney, William Taylor III, said last month. Lerner was not under oath in the private session, he said.
"There can be no doubt the IRS scandal has undermined the public's trust in our government," Cantor said on Friday. "This is far too serious a matter to leave to the discretion of partisan political appointees, no matter who is in the White House."
Among the organizations singled out was True the Vote
, a Houston-based voters' rights group that sued the IRS last year after its application languished for three years. Mitchell represented the organization, which received its tax-exempt status in September.
"One of the problems we have experienced is the stonewalling — and it seems that there has been inappropriate action between the Department of Justice and the IRS in the past year in trying to get a real investigation going," she told Newsmax.
"The only way the American people are going to have any confidence that this investigation is being properly conducted and that people are held responsible for violations of the law — and we know that there have been violations of the law, multiple violations of the law — is through a special counsel."
Mitchell said the special prosecutor was especially necessary because Lerner had met with Justice officials.
"Lois Lerner is unwilling to answer questions to the American people posed by their elected representatives in Congress, but she's not afraid to meet with the Justice Department," she said. "Those are the attorneys who can actually prosecute her.
"She wasn't fearing prosecution from the prosecutors, apparently," Mitchell added. "She's perfectly willing to meet with them and tell them whatever they want to know, but she's not willing to do that publicly with the people who are elected representatives."
The session proved that "Lois Lerner and her colleagues, they're not afraid of the Justice Department," she said.
The attorney also told Newsmax that all of the groups she represented had been granted their tax-exempt status by the IRS within the past six months.
In fact, the Tea Party Patriots learned that their application was approved the day before its president and co-founder, Jenny Beth Martin, was scheduled to testify on Capitol Hill about the targeting scandal.
"The IRS called and said that they would be granted their status," Mitchell said. "I just don't think that's a coincidence.
"I think the Democrats in the House are coordinating with the IRS to try to make some of these things disappear before they become publicly known or before someone is going to testify," she said.
In fact, the top Democrat on the Oversight Committee, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, has been accused by the panel's Republican members of spurring the IRS investigation
of True the Vote.
Mitchell said she knows of other conservative groups that have not yet received their tax-exempt status from the IRS — and that the continued pressure by Republicans and media would eventually help them get it.
"It took shining the spotlight," she said. "If I knew all their names, I could tell you — and they'd probably get their status."
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