“I made my decision with the full knowledge that I would likely end up in a courtroom,” former IRS contractor Charles Littlejohn said.
Littlejohn didn’t just leak years of Donald Trump’s tax returns to The New York Times in the lead-up to the 2020 presidential election. He also leaked the tax returns of thousands of other wealthy Americans, along with other private financial information about them, to another left-leaning “news” outlet, ProPublica.
But federal prosecutors alleged that Littlejohn stole and leaked tax information of about 18,000 individuals. The prosecutors said that “the tax returns are just the tip of the iceberg.”
The Justice Department alleges that Littlejohn took his job as a contractor for the Internal Revenue Service with an eye toward leaking Trump’s tax returns and concocted an elaborate scheme to avoid detection. He “engaged in multiple discussions, including in-person meetings” with New York Times reporters, and as one report noted, “after initially handing over the trove of tax records, he then stole more records and provided the reporters with more information.”
What did Littlejohn get for his egregious conduct? A sweetheart plea deal from the Biden Justice Department, which is run by his appointee, Attorney General Merrick Garland.
Despite his likely committing many felony offenses, the Justice Department agreed to charge Littlejohn with, and allow him to plead guilty to, only one count of unauthorized disclosure of tax records.
This inconceivable charging decision has sparked widespread outrage.
Rep. Jason Smith, R-Mo., chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said that “the single-count charge DOJ brought in this case was wildly insufficient based on the defendant’s multiple thefts and disclosures.”
Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., whose tax information was stolen and leaked by Littlejohn, said: “By only charging Mr. Littlejohn with a single crime, instead of the thousands he committed, Biden’s DOJ completely underscored the reckless partisan political abuse of our justice system under the Biden administration. By harassing prominent Republicans and embarrassing Americans, Mr. Littlejohn’s crimes were entirely aligned with the agenda of the Biden administration.”
Even the Biden-appointed federal judge tasked with sentencing Littlejohn, District Judge Ana Reyes, asked prosecutors to “[m]ake it make a little bit more sense” that he faced only one count despite all of his egregious conduct.
“The fact that he did what he did, and he’s facing only one felony count—I have no words for it,” Reyes said.
Neither do we.
Fortunately, the judge imposed the maximum sentence of “five years in prison with three years supervised release and a $5,000 fine.”
Reyes said that although Littlejohn might have thought of himself as a good guy for doing this, he wasn’t. His “targeting the sitting president of the United States,” she said, “was an attack on our constitutional democracy.”
Of course, Littlejohn’s actions could have been anticipated because of the IRS’ lax protocols and inexcusable practice of rehiring those who have violated its policies.
The Government Accountability Office studied the IRS’ practice and found that between fiscal years 2012 and 2021, the agency investigated nearly 1,700 instances of “alleged willful unauthorized access of tax data by employees” with violations being found in at least 27% of those cases.
The report also found that since 2017, the IRS has not met its goal of “investigating and closing unauthorized disclosure cases in 180 days.”
More outrageously, in 2017, then-Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration Russell George found that the IRS rehired 200 employees “between January 2015 and March 2016 that were terminated or separated from the agency that were either under investigation or had some misconduct that caused them to leave.”
The Washington Free Beacon reported that one employee had a “do not rehire” note in his file, but “the IRS rehired the employee anyway.”
Littlejohn’s attorney asked for leniency in sentencing, saying that he acted “out of a deep, moral belief that the American people had a right to know the information.” But the fact is, Littlejohn intentionally broke the law many times over many months, affecting many people.
Given the gravity of his crimes and the duplicitousness and deliberateness of his actions, the Biden Justice Department certainly didn’t send a strong message that this type of conduct won’t be tolerated.
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