Name of DOJ official involved in IRS-Tea Party scandal resurfaces in FBI politicization probe

by Chris Lange

Chris Lange, FISM News


A senior Justice Department official flagged by House Judiciary Republicans in a whistleblower investigation into the politicization of the FBI, played a major role in a scandal regarding the targeting of Tea Party members by the IRS under the Obama administration, according to a Just the News report. The scandal led to the resignation of one senior IRS official.

Richard Pilger, the current chief of the Department of Justice Elections Crime Branch of the department’s Public Integrity Section, was involved in discussions in 2010 and 2013 with then director of the Exempt Organizations Unit of the IRS, Lois Lerner, about pursuing criminal prosecutions of conservative nonprofits. 

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in 2014 concluded that Pilger’s involvement in the scandal was part of a broader attempt by the Obama administration to silence conservative groups that publicly opposed the administration’s agenda. The committee adopted a resolution to hold Lerner in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with subpoena requests, after which she was placed on administrative leave and later resigned. The Obama administration declined to pursue criminal charges against Lerner.

Emails between Pilger and Lerner released by the committee in 2013 showed that Pilger approached Lerner to discuss a Democratic senator’s idea that the IRS could potentially pursue false statement cases against the Tea Party and other conservative groups centered around their non-profit status applications.

In a 2013 email obtained by congressional investigators, Lerner advised her IRS colleagues that she received a call from Pilger who “wanted to know who at IRS the DOJ folks could talk to about Sen. [Sheldon] Whitehouse idea at the hearing that DOJ could piece together false statement cases about applicants who ‘lied’ on their 1024s — saying they weren’t planning on doing political activity, and then turning around and making large visible political expenditures.”

Lerner went on to say that the Justice Department was eager to speak with “the right folks at IRS to see whether there are impediments from our side and what, if any damage, this may do to IRS programs.” 

Following the discussion between Pilger and Lerner, the FBI obtained over a million pages of documents on conservative groups in an effort to determine whether they could bring false statement charges against them on the basis that they engaged in political speech activities, according to investigators. 

“These documents suggest that the Department actively considered prosecuting non-profit groups for their political activities,” the investigators concluded in their final report.

“The Department went so far as to meet with the IRS about the investigation and to gather a 1.1 million-page database of information as potential evidentiary material. Even more astounding, the Department considered prosecuting non-profit groups for actions that are legal for 501(c)(4) groups under federal tax law — that is, for engaging in political speech,” the lawmakers stated.

The findings further revealed that Pilger had previously discussed targeting conservative groups with Lerner as far back as 2010.

In October 2010, Pilger sent an email asking for a “good IRS contact re criminal tax enforcement against tax exempt organizations,” according to the report.

Over a decade later, Pilger’s name has resurfaced in probes of the politicization of the Biden administration’s Justice Department.

In a July 18 letter written by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) to FBI Director Christopher Wray and Attorney General Merrick Garland, the senator cites multiple FBI whistleblowers who have come forward with concerns that agents and DOJ officials are pursuing “politically charged investigations…ranging from election and campaign finance probes across multiple election cycles to investigative activity involving derogatory information on Hunter Biden’s financial and foreign business activities.”

Among the allegations referenced is one involving Washington Field Office Assistant Special Agent in Charge Timothy Thibault whom whistleblowers say improperly triggered investigations against political adversaries “while declining to move forward with other investigations despite proper predication.” 

“Thibault and Richard Pilger, director of the election crimes branch within the FBI’s public integrity section, reportedly were instrumental in the opening of an investigation into the Trump campaign and its associates based in substantial part on information from a left-aligned organization,” Grassley wrote. 

“Whistleblowers claim that Thibault, Pilger and others didn’t always adhere to agency policies in their supervision of various election-related matters, including campaign finance investigations across multiple presidential election cycles,” he continued.

In June, GOP members of the House Judiciary Committee raised concerns over whistleblower reports that the FBI has been actively “purging” employees who have expressed concerns about the Bureau’s narrative surrounding the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riots.