Justice attorney won't discuss IRS case with Congress

The Justice Department is brushing aside a request from a House committee to make an attorney involved in the IRS investigation available to testify next Thursday.

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A slew of Republicans – including Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) and House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (Calif.) – have slammed the Obama administration for placing Barbara Bosserman, a lawyer who has donated thousands of dollars to Democratic causes, in a key role in the inquiry into the IRS’s targeting of Tea Party groups.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), another sharp critic of Bosserman’s role, had requested that the Justice Department attorney testify before his House Oversight subcommittee on Feb. 6.

But James Cole, the deputy attorney general, told Jordan on Thursday that allowing Bosserman to testify on an ongoing investigation would raise questions about the independence of the investigation.

"The department's longstanding policy, applied across administrations, is to decline to provide Congress with non-public information about ongoing criminal investigations," Cole wrote.

The deputy attorney general also hinted that the Justice Department did not appreciate the sort of questions Jordan was likely to ask.

Attorney General Eric Holder and other Justice Department officials have come to Bosserman's aid in recent days, saying she's just one part of a broader team investigating the IRS, and that career attorneys have a right to play a role in the political process.

“Members of Congress have long understood and respected the department's strongly-held concern that subjecting line prosecutors to congressional questioning poses significant risks to the department's law enforcement efforts and would have a chilling effect on department attorneys,” Cole told Jordan on Thursday.

Holder has pushed back on media reports that the government was unlikely to file any criminal charges when its investigation into the IRS’s singling out of groups seeking tax-exempt status comes to a close.

But Issa and Jordan have increasingly suggested in recent months that the Justice Department and the FBI were impeding their own inquiry into the IRS case. An Oversight spokesman said Thursday that the refusal to make Bosserman available was just the latest example of that trend.

"The Justice Department's refusal to answer questions - including questions about apparent conflicts of interest within the investigation itself - is highly disappointing,” the spokesman said. “This refusal only enhances concern that politics have infected the Administration's examination of inappropriate targeting by the IRS."