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Lawmakers back maximum prison sentence in tax record leak case

Sen. Rick Scott says he intends to read a victim impact statement during a sentencing hearing Monday

Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., speaks during a news conference Wednesday.
Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., speaks during a news conference Wednesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Members of Congress have backed a tough prison sentence for a man who pleaded guilty to leaking to the media tax records of Donald Trump, Sen. Rick Scott and billionaires Elon Musk, Warren Buffett and Jeff Bezos.

A sentencing hearing is set for Monday morning in Washington for Charles Littlejohn, a former contractor for the Internal Revenue Service, on one charge of disclosing tax return information without authorization.

Prosecutors have recommended that Judge Ana C. Reyes of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia sentence Littlejohn to five years in prison, arguing that he leaked the returns of over a thousand people, damaging the tax system and the public trust.

Prosecutors said the “unparalleled” disclosure warranted the maximum statutory sentence.

“There simply is no precedent for a case involving the disclosure of tax return and return information associated with ‘over a thousand’ individuals and entities,” prosecutors wrote.

Scott, R-Fla., announced Thursday that he was one of the people whose tax information was leaked by Littlejohn and said he intended to read a victim impact statement during Monday’s hearing.

Scott also published a letter that asked Attorney General Merrick B. Garland to attend and criticized prosecutors for allowing Littlejohn to plead guilty to a single criminal charge. Scott wrote that Littlejohn’s crimes were “entirely aligned with the agenda of the Biden administration” and that Garland had politicized the Justice Department.

“Since you have steered the Justice Department down this partisan political path, you should be on hand personally to in some way be accountable,” Scott wrote.

Garland issued a statement on the case alongside the announcement of Littlejohn’s guilty plea last year, praising the DOJ’s effort and decrying Littlejohn’s conduct.

“By using his role as a government contractor to gain access to private tax information, steal that information, and disclose it publicly, Charles Littlejohn broke federal law and betrayed the public’s trust,” Garland said at the time.

Republican members of the House Ways and Means Committee, in a letter to the judge, criticized the DOJ’s handling of the case, particularly the fact that Littlejohn pleaded guilty to only one criminal count.

The letter, led by committee Chairman Jason Smith, R-Mo., argued Littlejohn took great steps to damage the tax system and evade justice and should receive the maximum five-year prison sentence.

“Mr. Littlejohn’s actions showed disdain for the rule of law and American confidence in our voluntary tax system. He acted with an apparent political motivation and perhaps with an intent to impact a Presidential election,” the letter states.

House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., had a single word of response to Smith’s letter on X, the site formerly known as Twitter: “Absolutely.”

According to court papers, Littlejohn stole information about “Public Official A” over several months in 2019 and provided them to a news organization which later published them. In September 2020, The New York Times published a lengthy investigation about former President Trump’s finances, which showed he routinely lost money and paid little in taxes.

Littlejohn later stole information on thousands of wealthy taxpayers in 2020, according to court documents. He later provided that information to another news organization, according to court documents, which published them in 2021.

In 2021, ProPublica published a story showing that wealthy individuals, including Warren Buffett, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos regularly paid little in taxes relative to the average American.

In a filing last year in court, the government and Littlejohn stipulated to a sentencing guidelines recommendation for between eight and 14 months in prison, but both sides reserved the right to push for departures from those guidelines.

Littlejohn’s attorneys have argued for leniency, saying that Littlejohn believed he was acting in the public interest after becoming concerned about income inequality and tax dodging.

“He did not disclose the information for personal gain; nor did he intend to harm the taxpayers,” the sentencing memorandum said.

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