Mens rea is the legal term for a culpable mental state, indicating that a person was aware that her actions were illegal at the time she committed them. As the probe into the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups proceeds, email records have been uncovered showing that Lois Lerner had mens rea in spades.

Lerner on April 4, 2012 - an election year, please note - wrote to her supervisor, Joseph Grant, asking him to put off responding to an informational request from Imraan Khakoo, another IRS official. Khakoo’s request related to the activities of the Cincinnati office that was later determined to be a central player in the targeting of conservative groups by the IRS.

“Everyone is stressed to the max and at their wits end, so can we put this off please?” wrote Lerner. To his credit, Grant answered that he was also interested in the questions Imraan had raised. Good answer, Mr. Grant. No orange jumpsuit for you.

As for Lerner, whether she will begin involuntarily wearing orange will almost certainly depend on the length of the statute of limitations on any charges that could be brought against her. It’s unlikely, after all, that she’ll face a prosecution from an Obama-run Justice Department. Eric Holder has been described as the President’s “scandal goalie,” his last line of defense against criminal behavior by the members of his administration.

Because of the White House’s stonewalling on Lerner’s emails (remember them? - like the singer of Amazing Grace, they were lost, but now are found), the facts on this scandal have been dribbling out slowly, so a recap is useful. We now know that Lerner initiated the non-profit scrutiny program, which targeted any organization that had certain suspicious words in its name (tea, party, liberty, etc.) at a 2010 conference of government workers held in a Washington D.C. hotel.

By 2012, the program was in full swing, chilling the free speech activities of those groups, and placing a thumb on the scale of the presidential election. That’s when Khakoo started asking questions, and that’s when Lerner started emailing her boss, Mr. Grant. His negative response didn’t faze her. Here’s her reply to him:

“I get that–but timing would be bad if we have to go to Cincy now. So, I will assume we can go over this here as I get the information I’ve already asked for? Thanks.”

And thank you, Lois, for revealing to us this portion of the sick underbelly of the federal bureaucracy.


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