Issa will recall IRS official who refused to answer questions
May 23rd, 2013
11:55 AM ET
1 year 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 Lerner's 5th amendment assertion is no longer valid.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Issa's office declined to explain what his counsel's legal basis was for deciding that her Fifth Amendment assertion is no longer valid.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. just sayin

    ghostriter
    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?
    -–

    not what i heard. i heard she had worked for left wing groups in the past and one that had gone after religious organizations and had interesting requested what prayers they said, the exact same thing asked of the irs applicants that have been targetted. i'm sure her background is being given a good goin gover so time will tell.

    May 23, 2013 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  2. Lynda/Minnesota

    "After consulting with counsel, Chairman Issa has concluded that Ms. Lerner's 5th amendment assertion is no longer valid."

    In other words, Issa has concluded he wants more camera time. This is getting absurd, to say the least.

    May 23, 2013 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  3. 2014Voter

    Perhaps Issa will holder her in contempt of Congress. Problem is he'd have to hold 93% of American citizens too.

    May 23, 2013 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  4. U.S. Citizen

    So taking an oath to the tell the truth gets nullified by pleading the 5th?
    As government official they're obligated to give an accounting of their duties and actions. If they don't then their loyalties are elsewhere and should be fired.

    May 23, 2013 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  5. TheTruth

    Explain to me again why she was promoted to be in charge of Obamacare.

    May 23, 2013 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  6. Sid AIrfoil

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

    I guess it's the Republican's turn to violate the Constitution. Funny how we are all blind to our own sins.

    Sid

    May 23, 2013 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  7. bobJohnson

    JH Because there is a possibility of a criminal probe of the actions of her IRS unit she could implicate herself if she made any statement to Congress. a criminal case does not have to be file in order to invoke the 5th. The possibility of criminal charges is all that is needed. Her Attorney is guarding against the possibility have to clean up a mess she created with testimoney she give to Congress.

    May 23, 2013 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  8. Pat F

    It is SO gross to hear liberals making excuses for Obama using IRS as a weapon against his political enemies. Nixon did it, and it was a Federal crime – but it is OK for Obama to do it.

    Any faith I ever had in people's integrity, and the left's fundamental respect for honest government and the political process is gone. The left has no more principles than the right – you are both sickening.

    May 23, 2013 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  9. Data Driven

    So Issa decides when the Constitution of the United States is valid or not, eh?

    I think this story has officially jumped the shark. Time to move on.

    May 23, 2013 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  10. Tully

    So you are not interested in Her answers to Congress? I believe others are interested in her answers.

    May 23, 2013 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  11. Michael

    If I'm not mistaken, Issa had made previous statements accusing her of a crime, so she would be an idiot to agree to testify before his committee. And the lawyers Issa depends on for legal advice must be idiots themselves if they believe that she waived her 5th Amendment rights when she simply stated that she committed no crimes. Methinks if Issa and company had not made such a political sideshow of all of this, she would have testified and we would all know exactly what happened.

    I think it is ironic that it is likely that the only lawless actions in this matter were the granting of any 501 (c)(4) tax exemptions to any of these groups, left or right, who make no secret of their political activities. Granting tax exemption to a group called the "Tea Party" is just as wrong as granting 501(c)(4) tax exemption to the Democratic Party, Republican Party, Libertarian Party, etc.

    Finally, the 501(c)(4) statute requires such entities to be "exclusively" social welfare, not "mostly". All 501(c)(4) groups that participate in political activity ought to have their tax exemption revoked.

    May 23, 2013 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  12. Ron L

    THIS IS RIDICULOUS, AND A WASTE OF TIME. They can call her back, she will repeat she is excercising her 5th amendment right and it will be OVER!! Its amazing how many people LOVE the constitution until it gets in the way of something they want.

    May 23, 2013 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  13. Al

    Bring her back, ask her questions and let the people see that she is go guilty that she will take the fifth on the questions asked. Remember if you really have NOTHING to hide you will answer questions, and giving a name does not mean you're guilty.

    May 23, 2013 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  14. JJ

    Bring her in again and again until she comes clean on what happened and who knew it.
    Also bring her boss the "funny man" who went to the WH for Easter Eggs.
    I'm happy that these IRS FOOLS think this is a game; it's not.
    Taxpayer's monies are involved here and I bel;ieve that a crime has been committed.

    May 23, 2013 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  15. Dan Clayton

    I believe all government officials should not be allowed protection under the fifth amendment. That would help eliminate corruption of this kind.

    May 23, 2013 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  16. Sniffit

    "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."

    Was that snark? I hope so, because it's a mish mash of incorrect layman-lawyering and disproving your own assertion by the very words contained in your assertion.

    May 23, 2013 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  17. just sayin

    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.
    -–

    issa is absolutely right about this. as a matter of fact, rep. gowdy called her on this the minute she did it. he is a former prosecutor and knows what she did was wrong. after you are sworn in, it is all testimony. i believe you can state your name for the record but after that, absolutely nothing, zilch.

    May 23, 2013 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  18. wxqz

    It is the Job of the IRS to validate claims of tax free status.
    Tea Party says they should be tax exempt because they are a 'educational' organization.
    What a a joke.
    This whole thing smakes of a Joe mcCarthy witch hunt. And we know how that turned out.
    What the IRS should do, is saturate the senate with records for them to pour through forthe next thousands years.
    Then maybe they'll fix the tax code.

    May 23, 2013 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  19. wxqz

    It is the Job of the IRS to validate claims of tax free status.
    Tea Party says they should be tax exempt because they are a 'educational' organization.
    What a a joke.
    This whole thing smakes of a Senator Joe McCarthy witch hunt. And we know how that turned out.
    What the IRS should do, is saturate the senate with records for them to pour through fort he next thousands years.
    Then maybe they'll fix the tax code.
    The other thing objectionable, is the GOP and Tea Party Effrots to inhibit voting access for poor and minority voters. Scamsters Id say. Like their cake and eat it too I'dsay.

    May 23, 2013 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  20. Patrick in Minnesota

    Pat F, Obama didn't even know about it, and he was prevented from by the laws governing the IRS. Nice try though.

    May 23, 2013 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  21. mark0

    I had nothing to do with it, I take the 5th.

    May 23, 2013 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  22. jack

    There are exactly two ways to lose the 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination:

    1) voluntarily give it up
    2) receive immunity from prosecution

    Otherwise, everyone has the right to remain silent during questioning at any time they so choose. End of story.

    May 23, 2013 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  23. Sniffit

    Besides, Issa waived his objection to her invoking the 5th when he accepted it and dismissed her from the stand. You want to play this game? We can play this game.

    May 23, 2013 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  24. lmc3

    This whole things seems a government snafu...The whole investigation seems to be backwards. It is an obvious fact that something was done wrong. Why does the congressional committee not subpoena the individuals known to have been using the wrong methods and ask who thought it up or who told them to do it that way? Then ask the person who told them to do it that way if he/she thought it up or was told to do it that way. And on up the line, until you get to the person who told the underlings to do it and to the person who thought it up. Then they should jump the boss of that person about why he/she didn't put a stop to it and fire all their butts. This whole convoluted government (read that run by lawyers) method of dealing with a problem is weird.

    May 23, 2013 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  25. A True Conservative

    No, it was absurd that anyone in the IRS thought that what they were doing was appropriate. It is even more absurd that anyone would attempt to defend these actions. Just wait until it happens to left leaning organizations and, suddenly, they will be beside themselves with indignation. Hypocrites.

    May 23, 2013 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
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