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 Lerner's 5th amendment assertion is no longer valid.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Issa's office declined to explain what his counsel's legal basis was for deciding that her Fifth Amendment assertion is no longer valid.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. anonymous

    Sniffit
    What would be next? "Vote this way or you're fired."
    -–

    obama's plan for the 2014 election revealed... or is it investigated?

    May 23, 2013 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  2. jsmoulder

    She waved her Fifth amendment rights by her statement that she did nothing wrong.

    May 23, 2013 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  3. g

    do away with this tax bs -everybody pay

    May 23, 2013 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  4. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    it's about a fair evaluation of such. Targeting certain organizations based on political stance is not a fair evaluation
    -------------------------------------------------
    In this case it is because they were applying for tax exempt status that you cannot have unless you are completely poltically SILENT.
    Thsy should've called themselves something less glaring in their audacious pursuit of the all-American getting over on the feds.

    May 23, 2013 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  5. levi

    I can't wait until Issa loses it with this one and screams where is your broom, at which time the Dems will jump up and yell "witch hunt, witch hunt"

    May 23, 2013 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  6. mpk51

    You might want to brush up on your awareness of the law. You can, in fact, Plead the 5th even though you make a statement saying you did nothing wrong. Apparently you make up your own assumptions even though there is a quote at the bottom of the article by a Law Professor...
    "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.
    RTDT... Read The Darn Thing

    May 23, 2013 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  7. sly

    Certainly doesn't sound like anyone at the IRS broke any laws.

    I applaud the IRS for thoroughly investigating groups that want to be Tax-Free even though they do not appear to satifsy the requjirement to be an organization working for 'social good'.

    PAC's are NOT non-profits, sorry, so thank you IRS for doing your due-diligence.

    May 23, 2013 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  8. Donnie

    Lock her up and throw away the key. These are NOT the types of people you want in positions of power, let alone positions of power at the IRS.

    Democrat Steven Lynch is correct. It is time for an independent Special Prosecutor to go after these people.

    May 23, 2013 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  9. B

    obma's group organizing for action, had no problem getting approved. The same with Obama's brother's group. yeah they weren't political.

    May 23, 2013 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  10. Said US Citizen

    If a government employee gets fired for wrong doing, do they still receive all the government benefits? If you get fired from the military you loose all benefits and I think the military person puts a lot more on the line than anyone working at the IRS.

    May 23, 2013 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  11. HenryMiller

    Lerner may or may not have a Constitutional right to protect herself with the 5th Amendment, but that in no way extends to protecting Obama. If she has knowledge of any illegal acts on the part of the White House, she's obligated to make that knowledge known and the 5th Amendment doesn't exempt her from that.

    May 23, 2013 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  12. An Independent

    1. This "poor woman" has waived her 5th admendemnt right. Don't know if she discussed her statement with her attorney, but he never should have allowed her to give a statement and than claim a 5th admendment right not to testify. If he allowed her to give that statement, then she probably has a good legal malpractice case. 2. This woman is an employee of the government, ie an employee of the taxpayers. If she chooses not to testify to legitimate job related questions...she needs to be fired and fired now. The taxpayers do not need to pay an employee who can not answer work related questions. 3. The taxpayers also need to fire the IRS. The IRS is a bully and works through intimidation and tax payers should demand a better tax system, like a national sales tax...so that everyone pays some taxes. Just my thoughts

    May 23, 2013 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  13. LesleeM

    I don't care whether Repub, Dem, Libertarian, etc. But when th eIRS starts asking "What do you say when you pray", who are your donors, etc...thank I have an issue with.

    May 23, 2013 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  14. mkuske

    You can't really say you need protection from self-incrimination if your claim is that you did nothing wrong.

    May 23, 2013 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  15. Rudy NYC

    I had to shake my head at the Republican who complained, "She can't do that. That's not how it works. She's supposed to stay here and answer our questions." Poor guy doesn't seem to know that you can invoke the 5th Amendment at any time you wish.

    What she did is exactly how it is supposed to work, Senator. Not sure about the walking out part, but she can refuse to answer any or all questions, however she wishes.

    May 23, 2013 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  16. Sniffit

    Now, the question is...how long will CNN hold off on reporting on the emails the House Oversight Committee released today showing that the short-cuts being characterized as "targeting" were in fact developed by low-level staffers?

    May 23, 2013 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  17. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    applaud the IRS for thoroughly investigating groups that want to be Tax-Free even though they do not appear to satifsy the requjirement to be an organization working for 'social good'.
    -------------------------------------------------
    Add my applause to yours.
    I am trying to wrap my brain around how a group that "appears" to be affiliated with a POLITICAL PARTY (Tea Party) might not think that they would be given a good close look by the IRS when they seek to obtain tax-free status.
    Democratic Party. Republican Party. Tea Party. They would all sound alarms to the dimmest of bulb at the IRS.

    May 23, 2013 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  18. Sniffit

    "No person has the right to invoke the 5th Amed in a administrative investigation, they are simply refusing to answer and thus can and should be fired. I feel Issa needs to clarify that this is not a criminal investigation if it is not."

    A congressional investigation can in no way, shape or form be transformed into an administrative investigation, no matter how hard you try. Just from the names, you should be able to tell me why.

    May 23, 2013 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  19. Tim

    I cannot understand how Liberals can continue to support Obama and his cronies with their rampant corruption. It is truly sad.

    May 23, 2013 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  20. freedom

    Can't plead the 5th and plead innocent at the same time. Her misstep – and she obviously has much to hide – like the rest of this administration. All the corruption is being revealed one scandal at a time....

    May 23, 2013 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  21. Sniffit

    " If she has knowledge of any illegal acts on the part of the White House, she's obligated to make that knowledge known and the 5th Amendment doesn't exempt her from that."

    Not if her having withheld such information could itself expose her to criminal prosecution.

    How long do we have to do this dance? You guys are going "yeah but, yeah but, yeah but" all day long and talk yourselves in circles until you vomit? Congress needs to address the economy and jobs, no matter how much rationalizing withchunting the POTUS with conspiracy theories gives you a semi.

    May 23, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  22. Lynda/Minnesota

    If not for the fact that TeaParty members and groups have become very ... well, political in their stances, I would be more concerned at these allegations and Issa's grandstanding.

    As it is? No. I can honestly say I'm not. I see no social "good" of portraits of our President being depicted as ... well, I'm having a hard time getting certain words past our moderators, so I'll leave it to your memories of past TeaParty "social" events to draw on what I am unable to speak of.

    May 23, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  23. Iwantfreestuff

    Alan Dershowitz says she waived her rights by making a statement and is in truoble and can be held in contemp.

    May 23, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  24. Alive and well

    Close the office in question in ohio. Put ALL employees on UNpaid administrative leave. When the pocketbooks get hit the wistle blowers will come out of the woodwork and the truth will be known within a week. Then let the "heads" roll.

    May 23, 2013 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  25. brasscap

    I don't think there are any conditions on the 5th Amendment. There is a better argument that she perjured herself under oath. Pleading the 5th is contradictory to the statement that she did nothing wrong.

    May 23, 2013 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11