Congressional political feud grows more intense
March 14th, 2014
08:45 PM ET
6 months ago

Congressional political feud grows more intense

Washington (CNN) – One of the hottest political feuds in Washington ratcheted up another tense notch Friday as House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, a California Republican, accused Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings of undermining an investigation into why the IRS targeted conservative groups.

Cummings fired back, calling Issa’s behavior “abusive.”

First, Issa: “You have made yourself an obstacle to effective congressional oversight,” he wrote Cummings in a sharply worded four-page letter Friday.

It went on to accuse Cummings, the top Democrat on his committee, of operating, “in effect (as) a defense counsel for (former IRS employee) Lois Lerner.”

Quickly responding, Cummings’ office called the letter “offensive” and Issa’s actions in a hearing last week “abusive.”

The barbed words are the latest in a back-and-forth-and-back-again fight between the two men over whether Issa can charge Lerner with contempt of Congress.

For over a year, Lerner has refused to testify publicly about her role in IRS targeting of tea party groups, citing her Fifth Amendment protection from self-incrimination.

The issue exploded at a hearing last week when Lerner again refused to testify.

After Cummings tried to make a statement and ask a question, Issa had the Democrat’s microphone turned off. That sparked a waterfall of outrage from Democrats and an apology from Issa.

Cummings next wrote two letters to House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, arguing that Issa’s behavior blocked the possibility of contempt charges.

The Democrat cited two former congressional attorneys who believe that Issa neglected to clearly overrule Lerner’s Fifth Amendment assertion or tell her that she must answer the committee’s questions. Therefore, they argue, Issa cannot file for contempt.

Friday, Issa fired back in his letter to the Maryland Democrat.

“You and your lawyers and consultants are wrong on the facts and the law,” Issa wrote.

Issa cited the committee’s resolution rejecting Lerner’s Fifth Amendment privilege and argued that Supreme Court case law supports his position. Issa then said Cummings was blocking the investigation.

In a sign of the deteriorating discourse, the Oversight chairman needled his Democratic counterpart about how he obtained his position.

“Even though the White House helped orchestrate your ascension to ranking member,” Issa wrote to Cummings, “I … continue to encourage … you to subordinate your political loyalties to the institutional interests of the Committee and the House.”

In response, an aide working for Cummings on the Democratic side of the Oversight panel shot back:

“Frankly, it’s offensive that the chairman would accuse Rep. Cummings of undermining the integrity of the committee after the entire country just witnessed his abusive actions at last week’s hearing,” the Democratic House Oversight aide told CNN.

Meantime, Issa is preparing the landscape for possible contempt charges. Tuesday he filed a 141-page report laying out a case against Lerner.


Filed under: Darrell Issa • Elijah Cummings
soundoff (40 Responses)
  1. AEJ

    This is the guy holding himself out as the crusader for What is Right and Just. This man would called himself, a "paragon of virtue."

    There is the car theft, for example. Oh, alleged car theft, I should say. After all, the man who made his fortune from a car alarm company was accused of auto theft at one point:

    A member of Issa’s Army unit, Jay Bergey, told Williams that his most vivid recollection of the young Issa was that in December, 1971, Issa stole his car, a yellow Dodge Charger. “I confronted Issa,” Bergey said in 1998. “I got in his face and threatened to kill him, and magically my car reappeared the next day, abandoned on the turnpike.”

    Ok, maybe that was a prank, but after that, there was this:

    On March 15, 1972, three months after Issa allegedly stole Jay Bergey’s car and one month after he left the Army for the first time, Ohio police arrested Issa and his older brother, William, and charged them with stealing a red Maserati from a Cleveland showroom. The judge eventually dismissed the case.

    March 15, 2014 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  2. Tampa Tim

    2 Indy – I keep forgetting, . . . After the republican government shutdown costing us $24 billion, and the republican credit downgrade that cost even more, $14 million is small potatoes to the GOP.

    March 15, 2014 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  3. Susan McFarland

    Go get her, Issa. That arrogant, administrative toady needs to answer to her bosses, the American taxpayer. While you're at it, call back former IRS boss Shulman and find out why he visited the W.hite House over 100 times during an election year, when all former bosses visited the White House TWICE at most during a four year term.

    Or just say "to heck with it" an get the DOJ to set up a special prosecutor so we can finally see how the IRS fooled around and silenced taxpayers during the campaign.

    Don't give up.

    March 15, 2014 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  4. 2_indy1600

    Anyone who misses the importance of an IRS lead using her personal email for transmitting info on private tax-paying citizens probably doesn't believe there are 25 different groups suing the IRS as we speak. Google the 20 cities while you're at it....this is what years and years of democratic governance buys.

    March 15, 2014 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  5. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    Darrell Issa is a foul human being. He abuses his power and is a criminal.

    March 15, 2014 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  6. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    @AEJ
    A member of Issa’s Army unit, Jay Bergey, told Williams that his most vivid recollection of the young Issa was that in December, 1971, Issa stole his car, a yellow Dodge Charger. “I confronted Issa,” Bergey said in 1998. “I got in his face and threatened to kill him, and magically my car reappeared the next day, abandoned on the turnpike.”

    Ok, maybe that was a prank, but after that, there was this:

    On March 15, 1972, three months after Issa allegedly stole Jay Bergey’s car and one month after he left the Army for the first time, Ohio police arrested Issa and his older brother, William, and charged them with stealing a red Maserati from a Cleveland showroom. The judge eventually dismissed the case.

    Don't forget the "alleged" burning down of one of his business's to collect the insurance money.

    March 15, 2014 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  7. Tampa Tim

    Susan Mc Farland – Ever read Forbes? They disagree with what Fox's Bill O'Reilly told you.

    "What’s more, Franke-Ruta’s research reveals that the records tracking the time and date that a visitor signs in and out of a White House event suggests that Mr. Shulman signed in for just 11 events during the years 2009 through 2012 and signed out of 6 events during that same time frame."

    March 15, 2014 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  8. HRC16

    Every two years we get a chance to vote these crazy's out, and yet we don't. Once again democratic supporters plan to sit home on there hands while the crazy, off the wall, nut case republicans go to the polls to vote. We are very likely to have a republican house and senate if we only look to 2016. Instead of criticizing President Obama for not getting things done, let us vote in the congress he needs in 2014. Let us do it right this time and vote in some rational people. Swing the house to Nancy and we don't have to listen to the crazy car thief Issa any more.

    March 15, 2014 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  9. J.V.Hodgson

    Dear me Ms lerner has:_
    1) Already handed over all her E-mail relative to this subject
    2) Prior to Issa's disgraceful handling of this last session of the house committee, he refused to accept an offer from her attorney to discuss his questions and never let any non republican member of the committee to attend the conversations leading up to he last appearance where clarifications could have been obtained with Lerners consent.
    Come on CNN report the facts not just the drama of the hearing and subsequent Ayes right youze wrong idiocy.
    Regards,
    Hodgson

    March 16, 2014 03:19 am at 3:19 am |
  10. Marie MD

    @name, yes he does. Very observant of you. The car thief also looks slimy. Those expensive suits must be hard to keep clean with the ooze coming out of him.

    March 16, 2014 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  11. Lizzie

    Nice of all of you, who repeat the claim he is a thief, never proven, looks like a Gestapo Officer, (Holder looks like the son of Hitler)but that's what makes you think your above eveyone,
    It's not like the pot smocking, claiming to be a foreign exchange student and got into Harvard by way of affirmative action President, and those are PROVEN facts.

    March 16, 2014 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  12. Barry Liar-Soetoro

    The Committee must grant immunity to Lerner as soon as possible before someone in Chicago orders her silenced for good. Yes – one can understand why she would be afraid. The Chicago machine is all too effective. If she talks, their entire syndicate of thuggery could suffer greatly. Her testimony could cause unspeakable harm to Soetoro – and worse yet – to the entire Democrat political regime.

    March 16, 2014 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  13. Gwiz

    facts facts facts lets see repuglican darrell issa has started a GOP witch hunt for targeting of conservative groups who claim to be non profit political organizations hmmmm non profit political organizations seems like issas mad because the irs made it harder for these groups to lie about there purpose when what they really do is raise money for a party then independently use that money to prop up ccandidates by running smear campaigns remember swift boat a registered 501-4c non profit group WHO DONT PAY TAXES WHEN THEY TAKE IN MILLIONS FOR POLITICAL PURPOSES oh and lets not forget what FOX and Issa wished u hadnt learned that progressive DEMOCRATIC groups were targeted to so where are the questions about that heres some more facts the republicans have used the filibuster more times for obamas nominations than ALL filibusters in the last 200 years. you want facts just go to congressgov and read how the republicans have voted 50 times to repeal obamacare but it took them 2 years to re up the farm aid bill so we dont pay 7 dollars for a gallon of milk or have mothers with malnourished kids facts facts facts

    March 16, 2014 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  14. Gwiz

    i forgot wheres the investigative committee looking into the shutdown or the committee who should be looking at issa for wasting 50 million dollars and getting diminshing returns he has all the evidence and yet he is still going in circles looks like once an offender always an offender watch out he may try to burn down his place of business again

    March 16, 2014 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  15. Barry Liar-Soetoro

    We must follow the IRS lies all the way to the White House. This is the only way we will fix this thugocracy from growing.

    March 16, 2014 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
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