High profile Washington, D.C. attorney Cleta Mitchell says the strong language she used at a House hearing last month on the IRS scandal still reflects the situation today. Mitchell told committee members in that hearing that the targeting of conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status continues to occur.
"The IRS scandal is real, it's not phony as the president said last July when he started to try to wish it away by simply denying that it existed. It is still going on and in fact the IRS is relentless in trying to do everything it can to silence the speech and activity of citizen's organizations across the country.
"It is really the most remarkable alarming infringement on first amendment rights of American citizens in decades. What I am shocked beyond words about is the fact that the IRS continues to takes steps to try to shut down citizen organizations and they issued new information two days ago, which would appear to codify all of the questions that they submitted to all those tea party groups. It's really quite shocking," she told Newsmax TV's John Bachman on "America's Forum" Thursday.
Mitchell represents several grass-roots conservative organizations whose applications under sections 501c3 and 501c4 of the internal revenue code were delayed in the run-up to the 2012 election.
She said that there is no sign the IRS is letting up. "On Tuesday of this week, if you can believe this, the IRS released to the public with no fanfare, it came to me in the form of a — I get a newsletter once a month on the exempt organization — and it says that they are going to published the questions, the types of questions that it sent to all of those hundreds of tea party groups two years ago" she revealed.
"And it said quite brazenly that from now on any group that indicates that it wants to be involved in the public policy arena, lobbying, grassroots lobbying, any kind of advocacy, that they're going to be subjected to those kinds of questions. It is startling."
Mitchell, a partner at Foley & Lardner, has served as legal counsel for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee and the National Rifle Association.
As for Wednesday's appearance by Lois Lerner in front of the House Oversight Committee, Mitchell said she was concerned the course of the proceedings may have taken some heat off of the former IRS official. Committee Chairman Darrell Issa adjourned the hearing after Lerner repeatedly refused to answer questions, prompting an outburst from Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland.
"That's what Congressman Cummings is trying to do. He's been trying to thwart the investigation since the day it started. He hates the idea that there's an investigation into the use of the IRS by the Democratic Party. Of course he wants to divert attention," she argued.
Asked if she thought Cumming's heated response was an intentional effort to cause a distraction from the hearing, Mitchell replied, "Yes. I absolutely do. But look, what he wanted to be able to say is this is a one-sided investigation and the investigation isn't proper. Look, he's been saying that and doing that, doing everything he can to undermine the investigation from the day that it started.
"Remember that he leaked information about the original interviews, the first witness interview, he leaked that and had it published. So he is basically giving [questions] to all the other witnesses from the IRS. This is what Elijah Cummings did last summer, and he gave them all the roadmap, 'hey guys, here's what is being said, here's what the other witnesses have said.'"
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