Issa will recall IRS official who refused to answer questions
May 23rd, 2013
11:55 AM ET
11 months ago

Issa will recall IRS official who refused to answer questions

(CNN) – A top Internal Revenue Service official who declared Wednesday she hadn't broken the law – and then refused to answer lawmaker questions – will be called to appear again in front of a congressional oversight panel, a spokesman for the committee's chairman said Thursday.

Lois Lerner, who oversees the IRS division responsible for tax exempt organizations, invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination Wednesday at a Capitol Hill hearing meant to probe the tax agency's admitted targeting of conservative groups.

But before she clammed up, Lerner declared, "I have not done anything wrong. I have not broken any laws."

Rep. Darrell Issa, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee, initially dismissed Lerner, despite protestations from Republicans on the panel who said she waived her Fifth Amendment rights with her opening statement.

At the end of the session, Issa announced he was not formally adjourning the hearing in order to consider whether to bring Lerner back.

On Thursday, an Oversight Committee spokesman said Lerner would be compelled to re-appear.

"After consulting with counsel, Chairman Issa has concluded that Ms. Lerner's 5th amendment assertion is no longer valid. She remains under subpoena, the Committee is looking at recalling her for testimony," Issa spokesman Ali Ahmad wrote. The exact time when Lerner will be required to come before the committee has yet to be determined.

Issa's office declined to explain what his counsel's legal basis was for deciding that her Fifth Amendment assertion is no longer valid.

In a survey of constitutional lawyers, most disagreed with Issa's conclusion that Lerner waived her Fifth Amendment right by declaring her innocence.

"One can invoke the Fifth Amendment at any time. Giving a preamble or any kind of statement doesn't void that," said Gloria J. Browne-Marshall an associate professor who teaches constitutional law at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. "Now does it look suspicious? Yes. Does it undermine the person's credibility? Yes."

CNN's Halimah Abdullah contributed to this report.


Filed under: Darrell Issa • IRS
soundoff (273 Responses)
  1. TheDA1981

    The Supreme Court has held that "a witness may have a reasonable fear of prosecution and yet be innocent of any wrongdoing. The privilege serves to protect the innocent who otherwise might be ensnared by ambiguous circumstances."[

    May 23, 2013 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  2. snowdogg

    Rep. Darrell Issa, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee is considering water-boarding as a way to "make her talk"

    May 23, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  3. jamesnyc

    All she has to do is plead the 5th and stare at him. She is a citizen of the United States. She is within her rights to plead the 5th as much as she wants.
    Issa is reaching.

    May 23, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  4. Alan

    News to Mr. Issa – even our fore fathers out thought you in implementing the 5th Amendment!...now it's really you and Congress who should be on trial by the American Public..if that ever happened..I'm sure you would also take the 5th. Please do the job you were elected (not think you were) for...pass a jobs bill.

    May 23, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  5. Brad

    How can some of you not understand that the same people who are evading answering questions are also in charge of your money? I thought this administration was supposed to be transparent, doesn't seem that far from any other.

    May 23, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  6. Chris

    @SuperD

    if you are upset about possible violations of some people's first amendment rights why would you champion violating another'ss fifth amendment rights?

    May 23, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  7. Rich

    This time it was Tea Party and conservative groups who were targeted. Next time perhaps it's a group you belong to. This is not about Republicans or Democrats, this is about our government abusing it's power.

    May 23, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  8. JH

    I am not sure why she gets to invoke the 5th anyway.

    The text of the 5th states, "No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."

    1. This is not a criminal case yet.
    2. She has not been arrested or charged with anything, nor has anyone else
    3. At the beginning of the 5th it states, "a capital or otherwise infamous crime." It has not even been determined that a crime was committed.
    4. "nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself"....see #1&2 above
    5. Does her invoking the 5th imply that it should be a criminal case?

    I need a lawyer to explain this one to me.

    May 23, 2013 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  9. jon

    Gotta love how the government picks holes in the constitution meant to limit their power.

    May 23, 2013 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  10. db

    Every group that received extra scrutiny still received their tax exempt status. So what is the big deal? Especially since the IRS did the same thing to at least one California church and the NAACP after they were critical of GW Bush when he was president. Where was the republican outrage then if it so bad?

    May 23, 2013 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  11. roger

    Let's see. Let's get a bunch of liberal constitutional lawyers together to give us their opinion on Mr. Issa's ruling. What do you think the lawyers will say?????????

    May 23, 2013 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  12. DanS

    The tea party applications were not scrutinized because of politics. The understaffed IRS was being flooded with tax exempt applications and one way to filter those likely to be questionable was to look for certain key words. No different than an employer trying to weed through thousands of job applications. Unfortunately, it only takes some dough headed overpaid politician with nothing better to do, to make a political side show out of it. Nobody has much sympathy for the IRS, but lets get real...this was just a couple of overworked, underpaid people trying to do their job the best they could.

    May 23, 2013 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  13. Anne-Florida

    I feel it was the right of the IRS to look at these "tea party" groups. They collected monies and used them to help elect tea party candidates. The only thing that was wrong was the fact that the IRS should have let the public know in advance their conditions for non-profit status.

    May 23, 2013 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  14. A Thinking American

    The Fifth Amendment permits you from answering specific questions. I does not allow to say I'm not answering ANY questions. How do you know if your response may incriminate if you don't know what the question is??? Come on folks, put your thinking caps on. A witness can't take the stand and refuse to answer questions, they must hear the question first and then invoke to the 5th. Refusing to answer any questions, or hear any questions is Contempt of Court, plain and simple.

    May 23, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  15. Pat F

    You are NOT allowed to testify, and THEN plead the 5th. Once you testify under oath, you've waived it, and the other side is able to cross-examine. Think about it for five seconds – if you could waive it at any time, criminals would deliver self-serving testimony at their trials, before the jury, then claim the 5th, blocking cross-examination. But that never happens, does it. That is because once you testify about the substance of the matter, you've waived your 5th amendment right. Can't have your cake and eat it too. Gloria J. Browne-Marshall is nuts – clearly an Obama hack apologist.

    May 23, 2013 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  16. Joe

    Invoking the 5th is tantamount to confession. Issa should indict her – then she'll talk.

    May 23, 2013 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  17. ghostriter

    Wait, so Issa knew about it last year....and is still claiming a cover up?

    Not to mention that Lerner is a republican and I believe her family donated to Romney. So know we are to believe that someone pulling for Romney knew about this and did nothing to save her job?

    Throw in the fact that these groups investigated outspent liberal groups 34 to 1 and we see the beginnings of the end of ye another republican witchhunt.

    May 23, 2013 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  18. Sniffit

    "1. This is not a criminal case yet.
    2. She has not been arrested or charged with anything, nor has anyone else
    3. At the beginning of the 5th it states, "a capital or otherwise infamous crime." It has not even been determined that a crime was committed.
    4. "nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself"....see #1&2 above
    5. Does her invoking the 5th imply that it should be a criminal case?"
    ===

    1. Irrelevant.
    2. Irrelevant.
    3. Irrelevant.
    4. Irrelevant.
    5. Inference not allowed.

    May 23, 2013 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  19. just askin

    Thomas
    Lois Lerner is a republican , appointed by GW Bush , donated 2500 to Romney in 2012 .
    --

    where do all you lefties get your lies and misinformation??? it apears to be from the same source. she is a 30 year civil servant. there are only 2 positions appointed at the irs. her's is not one of them. she is a lawyer and should have known was she was doing was not allowed. and her lawyers should have pulled her away from the microphone the minute she started. she screwed up royally as well as her lawyers and she did indeed start testifying with her statements. she now needs to complete testifying under oath. there are no ooops clauses in legal proceedings. no mulligans either.

    May 23, 2013 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  20. Rosslaw

    The delicate flowers of the republican party seem to forget that not a single application with the terms "tea party" , "tea party patriot" or "batsh*tcrazy" in their names had their applications rejected. And by the way, all of theim should have their tax-exempt money laundering status revoked since the law mandates that they be "primarily" a social issue group, not a political party as they all are. And Daryl and the boys should take another look at that Constitution they claim to be so crazy about before they toss Ms. Lerner in prison as they're champing at the bit to do.

    May 23, 2013 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  21. Bob

    The Fifth Amendment does not say that you cannot make an opening statement before Congress. The "Right" is to protect from self incrimination. Issa is probably wrong on this and is looking like a fool.

    May 23, 2013 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  22. Ta111

    Come on folks, even Alan Dershowitz a well known liberal defense lawyer said she clearly waived her Fifth amendment privilege. Also, she acknowledged under oath that her answers given to the IG were accurate. That IS testimony. If she wasn't going to testify she should have immediately refused to answer any questions, including acknowledgement of her answers.

    May 23, 2013 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  23. Pat F

    So, DB, you are OK with the scrutiny of the NAACP and "at least one California church" by GW Bush? Wow, never thought I'd hear a liberal say that as long as Obama does what Bush did, he is OK.

    May 23, 2013 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  24. joe800

    Issa should be impeached for failing to understand the 5th Amendment.

    May 23, 2013 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  25. Squinty Magoo

    We've never been told if the IRS had probable cause to suspect that Tea Party groups might not really be non-profit, education groups.

    May 23, 2013 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11