Conservatives were outraged Friday that the Justice Department closed its two-year investigation into the IRS targeting scandal without charging former supervisor Lois Lerner or anyone else at the agency, with tea party activist Mark Meckler slamming the decision as "a whitewash and miscarriage of justice."
"Lois Lerner made an entire career out of attacking conservatives and Christians," said Meckler, president of Citizens for Self Governance. "There is a reason the majority of Americans fear their government, and Lerner is the poster child for that reason."
"She has been rewarded for abusing her government positions to attack her fellow citizens," he added. "And until the Department of Injustice once again becomes the Department of Justice, Americans will live in fear."
Meckler's organization, which is based in Austin, Texas, has a federal lawsuit pending against the IRS and the Obama administration in the targeting scandal.
Catherine Engelbrecht, founder of True the Vote, the Houston group that also sued over the scandal, referenced such Obama administration debacles at the Fast and Furious gun-running scheme and the email probe over the 2012 Benghazi attacks.
"This is a lawless administration," she said. "The FBI closing their investigation is par for course in the Obama administration, where criminals walk free and honest Americans fear their government."
Jenny Beth Martin, CEO and co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, said that the decision marked "the latest evidence that the Justice Department, whether under Eric Holder or Loretta Lynch, has simply become the political hatchet-men for President Obama and his cronies throughout the administration."
"Clearly, we cannot rely on the Department of Justice to provide justice," she said.
In a letter to Congress, the Justice Department
said that while investigators had found "mismanagement, poor judgment and institutional inertia" within the IRS, no proof existed that any employee had specifically targeted a political group based on its viewpoints or had obstructed justice.
"We found no evidence that any IRS official acted based on political, discriminatory, corrupt or other inappropriate motives that would support a criminal prosecution," Assistant Attorney General Peter Kadzik said in the letter.
Lerner, 65, headed the IRS department that screened groups seeking tax-exempt status. She had been the focus of three congressional investigations.
In May 2013, Lerner was placed on leave because of the scandal — retiring four months later. She denied wrongdoing, but was held in contempt of Congress after twice refusing to testify on the debacle.
The Internal Revenue Service began targeting the groups in 2010. It continued to just before the 2012 presidential election.
Among the other groups targeted by the IRS were Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, the nonprofit political organization advised by Republican strategist Karl Rove.
The scrutiny generally involved lengthy delays and detailed requests for information. The IRS continues to be embroiled in a scandal over Lerner's emails since she left the agency.
Republican vitriol was pronounced toward the Justice Department's decision.
"At every turn, President Obama and administration officials have repeatedly and publicly undermined the investigation into the IRS's targeting of conservative groups yet today's announcement from the Department of Justice is still very disturbing," said Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, one of the panels investigating the scandal.
"The American people should be concerned that this kind of politicization continues to go unchecked by this administration and a Justice Department charged with pursuing wrongdoing," he said.
Goodlatte said that Attorney General Loretta Lynch will be questioned on the decision when she appears before the panel next week.
Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said that his panel would continue its inquiry.
"A clear message must be sent that using government agencies to stifle citizens' freedom of speech will not be tolerated," he said. "If the administration won't send that message, Congress will."
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said that the White House "has cemented its breach of the public trust and shown it cannot be counted on to police itself."
"It is because of actions like this that trust in government is so incredibly low."
Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, said that the Justice Department's "faux investigation" warranted an independent probe by a special counsel.
"It's an outrage – a mockery of justice," he said in a blog post.
ACLJ still represents many targeted groups in lawsuits on the scandal.
"We will not give up," Sekulow said. "We will not stop pressing for the truth. Justice will be served."
"Americans should never have to fear that the IRS or any other branch of the bureaucracy will target them for their beliefs."
California Rep. Darrell Issa, who preceded Chaffetz as Oversight Committee chairman, vented his anger on Twitter:
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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