Report: Criminal charges unlikely in IRS probe

Federal authorities are unlikely to file any criminal charges over the IRS's singling out of conservative groups, according to a new report.

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The Wall Street Journal says that the Federal Bureau of Investigation doesn't plan to make any charges right now – and that the bureau's investigation of the IRS found institutional mismanagement, but not the sort of political targeting that would break the law.

While charges don't appear likely, the investigation could continue for months, the Journal says. Federal authorities have examined whether IRS staffers lied about the targeting, or improperly disclosed taxpayer information. A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment on the report.

The reported IRS findings largely fits dovetail with what congressional Democrats have said about the IRS's targeting of Tea Party groups seeking tax-exempt 501(c)(4) status. 

The IRS acknowledged singling out groups last May, just ahead of a Treasury inspector general report outlining the agency's activities. 

Top Democrats have insisted that none of the evidence so far shows any political motivation on the part of IRS officials, or that any White House officials were involved. Some liberal groups also received increased scrutiny, Democrats say.

"I cannot speak to the FBI's investigation," Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.), the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, said in a statement. "But our committee has conducted a thorough investigation that involved reviewing hundreds of thousands of pages of documents and interviewing more than 30 IRS employees across the agency, and we have found no evidence of political motivation."

But House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said the report undermined the public's confidence in the IRS investigation.

Issa, Jordan and other GOP lawmakers have said that the IRS treated conservative groups the most severely. 

The two Republicans have also accused the FBI of stonewalling their inquiry into the IRS's actions, and have threatened to subpoena the bureau. Plus, they've urged Attorney General Eric Holder to remove the lead attorney on the IRS case because of her contributions to President Obama and other Democratic causes.

"These revelations further undermine the credibility of the Attorney General Holder and the Justice Department under his leadership," Issa and Jordan said in a statement. "Given the circumstances, there is little reason for the American people to have confidence in this investigation."

This post was updated at 9:43 p.m.