House Republicans vote to hold former IRS official in contempt
April 10th, 2014
01:04 PM ET
7 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. Donna

    Better late than never. It should have happened right after she read her statement, which was testifying. I hope they throw her in the can until she starts singing about who's idea it was to target the Tea Party and other conservative groups. 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.

    April 10, 2014 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  2. Tampa Tim

    If only republicans would be willing to something for America, instead of wasting taxpayer money again.

    April 10, 2014 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  3. Sniffit

    Makes sense. She claimed her Constitutional right under the 5th Amendment and, as everyone knows, the GOP/Teatrolls have nothing but contempt for the Constitution when it's rules get in the way of what they want.

    April 10, 2014 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  4. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    "This is not something that I take lightly,” said CAREER CRIMINAL AND CAR THIEF, Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa of California.

    April 10, 2014 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  5. Sniffit

    " I hope they throw her in the can until she starts singing about who's idea it was to target the Tea Party and other conservative groups"

    I hope they throw her in the can until she starts singing about who's idea it was to target the Tea Party and other conservative AND PROGRESSIVE groups

    FIFY

    So sorry, the truth makes your statement look silly.

    April 10, 2014 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  6. The Real Tom Paine

    The whole idea of citing her for contempt is to scare her into giving the GOP bottomfeeders what they want to hear. If, however, what she says does not conform to the narrative the GOP wants, what will they do then? Another waste of time and money by a GOP who cannot accept when they have lost, and will lie, cheat and steal to get what they want. Apparently, some on here want to abandon due process and everything else we hold dear in order to get at some perceived slight ( in other words, being held to a certain standard of behavior). Right, Donna?

    April 10, 2014 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  7. RF

    The Republicans are big on rights. Except when it doesn't suit them. One can make a statement then claim the 5th amendment at any time just like a criminal can speak to the police as long as he wants then whenever he wants he can ask for a lawyer. At that point his right is solid he doesn't have to say a word!

    April 10, 2014 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  8. GOP = Greed Over People

    Since when has it been unlawful to invoke the 5th Amendment?

    What? Ok, now I understand, ONLY when a GOP "patriot" invokes it like Krispie's two donut holes did, and now get to completely ignore a subpoena!

    April 10, 2014 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  9. Malory Archer

    Donna

    Better late than never. It should have happened right after she read her statement, which was testifying. I hope they throw her in the can until she starts singing about who's idea it was to target the Tea Party and other conservative groups.

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    con groups WHO ALL got their tax exempt status when all was said and done. Aren't you even a little bit curious about who's idea it was to target liberal groups – AND deny THEM THEIR TAX EXEMPT STATUS? The entire rightwing will provve themselves nothing but a bunch of hypocrites if they fail to address THAT issue.

    April 10, 2014 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  10. conchytonker

    Yay....throw that lying liberal in the prison!! And everyone knows that she was just the "middleman" for the White House?

    April 10, 2014 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  11. Malory Archer

    Hey cnn, why don't you run an article about how liberal groups were the ONLY ones in this so-called "IRS scandal" who had their tax exempt status denied, and how the car thief and crew have TOTALLY ignored that fact?

    April 10, 2014 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  12. Sniffit

    “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.”

    We cannot tell the American people we have done all we can do to get to the truth in this investigation if we fail to just give her immunity so she can give you the answers we are pretending we want, but are afraid to actually get because they further disprove our conspiracy theories.

    FIFY

    April 10, 2014 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  13. Luc

    Can the house GOP also pass contempt resolution for the ex employees of Christie after they pleaded the 5th. They have lots of time repealing Obama Care, going after IRS employee's what about finding some time for immigration reform, unemployment benefits, equal pay for women, minimum wage, and really coming up with some good down to earth solutions to help this country move forward instead of stalling it all the time. They are going to waste there time sending it to Holder where he will just light his fireplace with it. What the GOP should do is take a boat ride with Palin to Russia because it is not very far from her home and don't come back.

    April 10, 2014 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  14. truth hurts but reality bites

    Sniffit
    I hope they throw her in the can until she starts singing about who's idea it was to target the Tea Party and other conservative AND PROGRESSIVE groups
    --

    A total lie propagated by the left to try and cloud what really happened. The IRS held up approval of HUNDREDS of Tea Party groups for YEARS while they demanded totally inappropriate and illegal disclosures from the groups. They kept them out of TWO election cycles after the Tea Party showed their muscle in the 2010 elections. This was the political payback they got from the Democrats, targeting by the liberal led IRS.

    Less than 10 Progressive groups were reviewed and ALL of them got approved quickly.

    But nice try, keep up the lies Sniffit.

    April 10, 2014 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  15. Sniffit

    The 5th Amendment: IOKIYAR

    April 10, 2014 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  16. Lizzie

    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.

    April 10, 2014 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  17. The Real Tom Paine

    I wonder how many of the people who want throw Lerner in the can are the ones who were saying the GOP member from LA caught on tape snogging with another man's wife should be forgiven?

    April 10, 2014 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  18. Dead Bear

    Hopefully Darrell Issa ends up like his hero, Joe McCarthy: a drunken low-life with no credibility. But, then again, by GOP standards that would make him fit to be Speaker of the House.

    April 10, 2014 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  19. mickey

    If she has nothing to hide, why did she take the 5th? Taxpayers have a right to know the truth.

    April 10, 2014 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  20. Sniffit

    "“This is about one of the most fundamental abuses I have seen in my lifetime. About trying to skew an election.”"

    You mean like voter ID laws that target particular types of IDs that certain groups typically have and make them unacceptable,
    reduced early voting,
    taking away Sunday voting,
    redistricting with the explicitly stated intent of blunting the growth in political power associated with the population growth of a minority groups (see TX),
    reducing voter registration periods and locations,
    throwing out voting machines so there are not enough of them,
    reducing mail-in voting periods,
    failing to mail out ballots on time,
    reducing the number of polling places,
    deliberately arranging for huge lines and waiting times at polling stations in certain areas,
    making high school and college registration drives illegal or eliminating funding for those programs,
    setting new and prohibitively expensive rules and penalties for people/companies that seek to register voters,
    purging the voter registration rolls of people based on the mere suspicion of them not being citizens (generally because of their last names), etc.???

    You mean those kinds of efforts to skew an election?? Guess who's been desperately scrambling to do ALL of those thing. Guess. Rest assured, we know who you don't want voting and why.

    April 10, 2014 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  21. Sniffit

    "throw that lying liberal in the prison!! "

    She's a registered Republican and was appointed to her position by Dubya. PAY ATTENTION.

    April 10, 2014 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  22. smith

    @The Real Tom P.-Didn`t you forgive Billy Clinton?

    April 10, 2014 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  23. The Elephant in The Room

    Thank God we have a strong, principled Columbia man as Attorney General so that this lady won,t be railroaded by Issas McCarthy era tactics. The AG upholds the constitution while Republicans in Congress flout it.

    April 10, 2014 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  24. Wrencher

    Just looking at this blog, I am ashamed of what this country is turning into.

    It is a shame that we are so divided on everything that we cannot get the truth out. Nixon would never have resigned in these conditions. Democrats badddd! Republicans baddd! No, our last two presidents are baddd.
    I am scare to see the next fool in office with more unpaid promises.

    April 10, 2014 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  25. 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?

    April 10, 2014 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
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