EXCLUSIVE: The House Ways and Means Committee is demanding answers from the Justice Department on why it charged a former IRS consultant with one count of unauthorized disclosure of taxpayer information, including information belonging to former President Trump and thousands of wealthy Americans, despite the individual admitting to two separate disclosures.
The former IRS official, Charles Littlejohn, pleaded guilty last month to one count of unauthorized disclosure of tax return information. The Justice Department accused him of leaking tax information belonging to former President Trump and “thousands of the nation’s wealthiest individuals” to news outlets between 2018 and 2020.
The Justice Department said Littlejohn accessed tax returns on an IRS database and saved the tax returns on personal storage devices, including an iPod.
The Justice Department did not specify the two news organizations that Littlejohn leaked the documents to, but Fox News was told that the two organizations were the New York Times and ProPublica, a New York City-based nonprofit investigative journalism group.
Fox News Digital obtained a letter that House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith, R-Mo., sent Wednesday to Corey Amundson, the chief of the Public Integrity Section in the Criminal Division of the Justice Department.
“We write today to express concern abut the Department of Justice’s decision to charge Charles Edward Littlejohn with only one count of unauthorized disclosure of taxpayer information despite his admissions that he made two distinct disclosures to two separate news organizations impacting potentially thousands of taxpayers,” Smith, joined by all Republicans on the panel, wrote to the Justice Department.
Citing court documents and statements made at his plea hearing, Smith wrote that Littlejohn “stole tax return information associated with former President Donald J. Trump and disclosed it to the New York Times.”
Smith said Littlejohn also “stole tax return information related to thousands of the nation’s wealthiest individuals and disclosed this tax return information to ProPublica.”
“Mr. Littlejohn pled guilty to a single charge of unauthorized disclosure of tax information despite explicitly detailing his two separate and distinct unauthorized disclosures,” Smith wrote, adding that the disclosures both involved “two sets of information that were disclosed at two different times to two distinct organizations covering thousands of taxpayers.”
“We have not been able to determine how DOJ could possibly charge Mr. Littlejohn with only one count of unauthorized disclosure,” Smith wrote.
Smith called Littlejohn’s breach “the largest breach of confidential tax information in American history,” and slammed the Justice Department for only charging him with one count, which carries a maximum sentence of five years and a fine of $5,000.
“There are so many victims of Mr. Littlejohn’s disclosures that the prosecutors have asked a federal judge in Washington D.C., for permission to create a public website to notify victims without reaching out to each person individually,” Smith wrote.
Smith said Republicans on his committee “have pushed federal investigators for years to get to the bottom of who stole and leaked taxpayer information.”
“When the criminal leaker was finally caught, we expected that he would face severe consequences for his actions that would both punish him while also serving to deter future, similar misconduct,” Smith wrote. “Unfortunately, DOJ elected to charge only one count, and, even though as part of his plea agreement Mr. Littlejohn admitted to obstructing the investigation, DOJ also failed to charge him for obstruction.”
Smith said Littlejohn’s pre-sentencing report put him in a range of 8 to 14 months in prison.
“While some argue that he should have been charged with one count per taxpayer, it is clear to us that at a minimum he should have been charged with two counts of unauthorized disclosure and potentially with at least one count of obstruction of justice,” Smith wrote. “A sentence of 8 to 14 months comes nowhere close to having a deterrent effect on government employees who might be thinking about breaking the law.”
Smith stressed that “protection of taxpayer information is of upmost importance to Americans and our voluntary tax compliance system cannot function if bad actors are allowed to abuse it.”
Smith demanded that the Justice Department explain their charging decisions and provide information to the committee by Nov. 22.
“The American people are right to question whether we live in a nation with a two-tiered system of Justice, and DOJ’s handling of the Charles Edward Littlejohn case only adds more fuel to that fire,” Smith told Fox News Digital. “By only charging Littlejohn with one count of unauthorized disclosure, DOJ has set a terrible precedent, and sent the wrong message to government employees charged with protecting the sensitive taxpayer information of millions of Americans.”
Smith told Fox News Digital that U.S. taxpayers “deserve to know if DOJ’s decision to let Littlejohn off with just a slap on the wrist is politically motivated, and the thousands of taxpayers who, like President Trump, had their confidential tax information compromised deserve justice.”
“Ways and Means Committee Republicans are committed to ensuring private taxpayer information is protected and will continue to demand transparency and accountability from the Department of Justice,” he said.
Littlejohn will be sentenced on Jan. 29, 2024, and could face a maximum penalty of five years in prison.