House Republicans vote to hold former IRS official in contempt
April 10th, 2014
01:04 PM ET
4 months ago

House Republicans vote to hold former IRS official in contempt

Washington (CNN) – The Republican-led House Oversight Committee voted 21-12 Thursday to charge former IRS official Lois Lerner with contempt of Congress for refusing to answer questions about the agency's targeting of conservative and other groups. The vote sets up a full debate on the House floor, followed by possible court battle over the Fifth Amendment and a potential standoff with the Justice Department.

"This is not something that I take lightly,” said Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa of California. “We cannot tell the American people we have done all we can do to get to the truth in this investigation if we give a pass to a critical witness like Ms. Lerner.”

Issa has spent nearly a year investigating why the agency used conservative political terms like "Tea Party" and “patriot” to flag some applications for tax-exempt status.

“What is this about?” asked Rep. John Mica, Republican of Florida, “This is about one of the most fundamental abuses I have seen in my lifetime. About trying to skew an election.”

Republicans believe that Lerner personally tried to block conservative groups, including Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, from getting tax-exempt status when she ran the IRS division in charge of making tax-exempt decisions. The Republican investigation has sought to determine if White House officials were involved as well.

Democrats point out that liberal groups were also flagged by the IRS, with the the term "progressive" appearing on a watch list.

Lerner’s attorney responded quickly to the vote, calling it a political maneuver.

“The vote is the latest event in the majority’s ‎never-ending effort to keep the IRS story alive through this fall’s mid-term elections,” said William Taylor in a written statement.

But some of the most fiery debate at the meeting was not about the investigation, but instead about Lerner’s own Constitutional rights.

“Ms. Lerner has invoked her Consitutional right to remain silent under the Fifth Amendment and that’s it,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, Democrat of New York, “The end.”

The contempt charge hinges on Lerner’s refusal to testify before the committee, but Lerner did so while invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Democrats pounded away at that Thursday, comparing the Republican contempt motion to McCarthy-era intimidation tactics and insisting it has no legal standing.

“This contempt (charge)...this will be laughed out of court,” said Rep. Stephen Lynch, Democrat of Massachusetts.

Lerner’s attorney agreed and was blunt in his written statement.

“Ms. Lerner did not waive her Fifth Amendment rights by proclaiming her innocence,” he wrote. “There is ‎not a court in this country that will hold Ms. Lerner in contempt of Congress."

Republicans fired back, saying Lerner waived her Fifth Amendment right by giving the committee a brief statement asserting her innocence.

“Lois Lerner did not remain silent,” said Rep. Cynthia Lummis, Republican of Wyoming.

The party-line vote Thursday pushed the debate to the full House floor where Republicans could hold a contempt vote as soon as the last week of April.

If the full House passes a contempt resolution, the charge would next go to the U.S. attorney for Washington D.C., who would decide whether or not to convene a grand jury on the matter. Issa said a federal judge could rule on whether Lerner’s Fifth Amendment right protects her in this case or not.


Filed under: Congress • IRS
soundoff (45 Responses)
  1. 2_indy1600

    The IRS owns everyone. Arthur Anderson of ENRON fame will be doing the accounting for the ACA; they took over for the failed website. If everyone's comfortable with the only agency able to destroy if your healthcare isn't to their liking, turn her loose.

    April 10, 2014 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  2. CWMessenger

    Donna states it well above: "Using the IRS to target people based on political beliefs is as dangerous as it gets for abuse of government power. It is something every single American can relate to and understand."

    The sad part is, Obama has a criminal in the AG role who will not let this go anywhere. And even if he did, Obama would use his Dictator privilege to exonerate her.

    April 10, 2014 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  3. it must be said

    Sniffit
    "throw that lying liberal in the prison!! "
    She's a registered Republican and was appointed to her position by Dubya. PAY ATTENTION.
    --

    How much do you get paid to post these lies? Please cite your proof of this. Anybody can register to be anything, that does not make them one. Maybe she registered as a Republican to vote in a Republican primary for the weakest candidate? Democrats do this ALL the time.

    April 10, 2014 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  4. stopdrinkingthekoolaid

    i don't blame them.. This administration has made it clear though.. if you are an obumma supporter, you are above the law. The DOJ,and if necessary the stroke of an executive pen, you can commit any crime... Obumma /the DOJ will cover your but. Decide not prosecute, pursue arraignments, ect....

    This is a very dangerous precedent. The Attorney General of the US should NOT be an appointed position. It should be elected like others, and be able to be removed if there is a no confidence feeling of that person's impartiality. Without protection from the president.

    I for one do not feel he is an impartial chief officer of our department of justice.

    April 10, 2014 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  5. Sniffit

    "She should have not said anything, by making a statement she lost her right to be silence.
    RF, exept everything you said to the police before you want a lawyer can be used against you. So it is best to claim ADD admit nothing, deny everything and demand proof."

    You know, we have an entire judicial branch for bringing such arguments and doing things like getting a court to order her to testify and then hold her in contempt of court if she refuses (which, unlike this symbolic political crap, can actually be enforced with fines or imprisonment). Funny how Issa and the Teatrolls aren't bothering to try to get that court order saying she waived the 5th, eh? Hmmmm....I wonder why that could be.....

    April 10, 2014 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  6. Silence DoGood

    @Donna "target people based on political beliefs is as dangerous as it gets for abuse of government power"
    -----------
    ...which is pretty much what Issa is doing now and Ken Starr did in the Clinton Inquisition.
    And don't forget one of your likely patron saints, Joe McCarthy, who ended up on the bad end of a rare Congressional Censure, when people tired of the witch-hunt.

    McCarthy turned "taking the fifth" into an admission of guilt, as Donna and others here are doing. Watch for Issa to follow this path too. Absence of information taken as solid evidence of guilt. The "Fifth Amendment Communist".

    Text book Conspiracy Theory Witch Hunting from the pages of history.

    April 10, 2014 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  7. rs

    conchytonker

    Yay....throw that lying liberal in the prison!! And everyone knows that she was just the "middleman" for the White House?
    _____________________________
    Yay... don't you know she is a Republican who was appointed by the LAST President?

    April 10, 2014 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  8. rs

    You Got It

    This should have happened a long time ago – she's already admitted to the targeting and apologized (look it up here on CNN).
    it doesn't matter what Party you belong to – targeting like this can not be tolerated, for any group. And for those that say this is all a bunch of bull – then why did she admit to targeting & apologize for it?
    _____________________________
    Probably because there was no targeting. Political organizations from both sides were examined. Carl Rove is just unhappy because rules were applied to his Koch-fuelled group-JUST LIKE everybody else's. Just another case where the GOP thinks they are above the rules.

    April 10, 2014 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  9. Stuffitu

    It will go nowhere, it gets turned over to a very, very corrupt DOJ headed by a person even morre corrupt than the corrupt, incompetent, corrupt president. The impeachment won't come until 2015.

    April 10, 2014 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  10. ghostwriter

    In Klein v. Harris,11 the U.S. Court
    of Appeals for the Second Circuit outlined
    the test for determining whether
    there has been a testimonial waiver of
    the privilege against self-incrimination.
    First, it must be shown that “the witness’s
    prior statements have created a
    significant likelihood that the finder of
    fact will be left with and prone to rely
    on a distorted view of the truth.”12
    Second, the witness must have also had
    “reason to know that his prior statements
    would be interpreted as a waiver
    of the Fifth Amendment’s privilege
    against self-incrimination.”13

    April 10, 2014 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  11. Miami Mike

    "But liberal groups were targeted, too..."

    NO group (dem/rep, liberal/conservative, etc.) should have been targeted in the first place.

    However, for ObamaBots, the Chosen One is above the Law and it is not applicable (just like the equal pay law the One flaunts, but has the worst record of pay discrimination).

    April 10, 2014 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  12. bobo

    Funny how the RNC is slowly conforming moderate Libs.... Go Joe Scarborough! Most of America leans Right anyway!

    April 10, 2014 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  13. bobo

    Lois Learner should have kept her mouth shut!...... She did not, so now she pays..... You can't have it both ways!

    “Lois Lerner did not remain silent."

    April 10, 2014 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  14. TW

    Straight party line vote, Democrats vote against holding her responsible. Yet claims "not a smidgen of corruption".

    April 10, 2014 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  15. rs

    it must be said

    Sniffit
    "throw that lying liberal in the prison!! "
    She's a registered Republican and was appointed to her position by Dubya. PAY ATTENTION.
    -

    How much do you get paid to post these lies? Please cite your proof of this. Anybody can register to be anything, that does not make them one. Maybe she registered as a Republican to vote in a Republican primary for the weakest candidate? Democrats do this ALL the time.
    _____________________________
    One poster here is responsible for your lack of knowledge? Go! Do your own research!

    April 10, 2014 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  16. rs

    bobo

    Lois Learner should have kept her mouth shut!...... She did not, so now she pays..... You can't have it both ways!

    “Lois Lerner did not remain silent."
    ______________________________
    It doesn't work like that. She didn't have to be mute from the get go- Issa knows that well.

    April 10, 2014 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  17. Marcus (from...?)

    it must be said – And what about you? If it so easy to disproof/discredit, whithout bothering to show evidences just innuendos, whatever anyone says or do... what about you man? How much are your time worth?

    April 10, 2014 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  18. Tampa Tim

    Miami Mike – According to the law, the only groups that should be exempted are those who deal exclusively with social welfare. No liberal, no progressive, no republican, no conservative, nor any bagger group should have tax exempt status.

    April 10, 2014 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  19. Marcus (from...?)

    Marcus – Ops... my bad... 'How much IS your time worth?'

    April 10, 2014 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  20. just saying

    Silence DoGood
    Absence of information taken as solid evidence of guilt.
    --

    quite to the contrary... the few emails that have been able to be pried out of the hands of the irs over the last year (they continue to stonewall and refuse to provide information) show some pretty damning evidence against this woman. collusion with other government agencies, disclosure of confidential tax payer information, active targeting and concealment, etc.

    this is just the tip of the corrupt obama administration iceberg. if the evidence doesn't get destroyed by the obama administration.

    April 10, 2014 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
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