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 Lerner's 5th amendment assertion is no longer valid.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office declined to explain what his counsel's legal basis was for deciding that her Fifth Amendment assertion is no longer valid.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

    Where is CNN investigative reporting? If it weren't for Fox news, this would be swept under the carpet like all the other scandals of this administration. Also to be noted is the childhood comeback of the Obama supporters; "Well, ____ did it too."

    May 23, 2013 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  2. dave

    The Post column gave this and several other Lerner claims a rating of "four Pinocchios," which is the worst score given by the newspaper's fact-check column.

    May 23, 2013 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  3. Terry

    I love the Maffia comparisons manyote uses to compare to this administration. Quite interesting since this Chicago president never seems to know what's going on when something wrong happens. Reminds me of Michael Corleone baptizing his child while his organization takes down the opposition.

    May 23, 2013 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  4. Anthony

    A defendant waives the 5th Amendment privilege by taking the witness stand. A witness does not. A witness waives the privilege by disclosing self-incriminating information in response to a specific question.

    May 23, 2013 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  5. tanthonyS

    All these jerk politicians, grandstanding for political purposes. Such a stupid sham.

    May 23, 2013 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  6. hammer

    So I take it libs are saying the IRS did a great thing.I don't think any group should be tax exempt but to target just one side is wrong in my book.Some of you people on both side are killing this country.

    May 23, 2013 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  7. Fish

    They need to give her immunity from prosecution so the whole story can be revealed, anything regarding the IRS is relevant the our nation's well being. If she has any wrongdoing on her part she can be punished via the government's system instead of the judicial system. We need only to get the facts at this point. The IRS is crucial to our nation and their independence must be absolute!!!

    May 23, 2013 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  8. wade

    IRS official who refused to testify placed on administrative leave
    Administrative leave! She should have been fired on the spot!

    May 23, 2013 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  9. hjfarmer

    Why does this woman still have a job? Why are we as taxpayers paying someone who will not talk to us about the job she is paid to do for us? In three scandals no one has been held accountable except Miller whose term runs out next month. No one in this administration knows anything and no one is accountable for anything.

    May 23, 2013 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  10. Bazinga

    They are so busy playing , while "Rome" burns. America is doomed, due to these "lawyers".

    May 23, 2013 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  11. U.S. Citizen

    Apparently she thought the day to take the fall wouldn't come.
    She'll likely end up singing like a canary.
    Racketeering charges are likely to come.

    May 23, 2013 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  12. Stupid Republicans

    Issa, what a tool. Joe McCarthy all over again. Just keeps on making all republicans look even dumber than they are, and THAT is really saying something.

    May 23, 2013 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  13. AZ Girl

    Everyone also is forgetting a huge point. This isn't about their tax status, it's what TYPE of tax status, and the type of reporting you have to do according to the requirement of the tax code. The "social" status provides the you don't have to report individual donors. Political organizations, you do. THAT'S the issue politicians and party are trying to distract the American public from realizing. Everyone is so full of hatred for "the other guy" that they are distracting everyone with that hatred.

    May 23, 2013 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  14. Nate

    Taking the fifth may be her right. But
    If she cannot answer questions about her areas of responsibility then she should resign or be fired. If she behaved honestly then she should not have to take the fifth. I am not saying she is guilty of anything. But if you cannot defend your job actions.... Then you should not be doing that job.

    May 23, 2013 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  15. Managing Service Demands 101

    What did they do that was wrong? They have an influx of applications, not enough staff, so they look for trends, focus on the trend, and keep the work moving. How is this targeting? Thiis is Managing Service Demands 101. What needs to be examined is percentage of those requiring more info and percentage of those denied when compared to applications from other political groups, and the questions asked. Though this could be explained by these groups being new to the process, it could also imply targeting. Everything else though is in line with managing service demands.

    May 23, 2013 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  16. gary

    To Allan: Just one simple question. Do you think Petraus met all your demands. By your rules he should not be receiving any retirement benefits. Since he voluntaily resigned he admits guilt but republicans never demaded he make all his e-mails public. Truth is this admistration repoects people even if they make a mistake. If Obama and the Democrats wanted to they could and call for many invetigations involing the past Republican administration. Point is they are more concerned about moving on than playing politics. That is most important to most of the voting public. Future elections will continue to confirm this fact. Republicans need to wake up.

    There are couple quotes that repulicans have made that I will never forget. McConnell's words"Our first priority is to see he is never elected again" and Bohener's quote to the unemployed americans anxiously waitng for word on their future benefits "sorry people we have to face that we are out of money". Using Rand Paul's famous quote "that should disqualify them from ever holding high office again". Nice try Rand!

    May 23, 2013 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  17. Debbie

    IF Issa recalls the IRS official will the GOP recall ISSA who has twice been arrested as a car thief? ISSA = no credibility.

    May 23, 2013 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  18. drkent3

    I love the twisted logic used by some: "If she takes the 5th, then she must be guilty". Why even *have* a 5th Amendment if by invoking it you have automatically incriminated yourself? Are people *really* this ignorant?

    May 23, 2013 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  19. drkent3

    I just read an article that states researchers have determined the average person has a lower I.Q., by 14 points, than the average person in the 19th century. Comments on these blogs seems to validate that conclusion... sheesh...

    May 23, 2013 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  20. Larry L

    I'm waiting to one, single, solidary thing done by a Republican that isn't associated with some witch hunt they've created for political leverage – and a distraction from what they haven't done. They only attack the work of others – but do nothing themselves but rant and pander to the radical, white, bigoted mob of Fox News drones.

    May 23, 2013 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  21. Larry L

    Sadly, Dick Cheney wasn't prosecuted for his long list of crimes associated with Enron, Halliburton, and the treasonous act of starting the Iraq War with purposefully falsified intelligence. He may pleaded the 5th if the law had been applied. Over 4,500 Servicemembers died so Dick and friends could get richer. He's a war criminal and should be in prison.

    May 23, 2013 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  22. DJ Reality

    This is all truly pointless. They need to check the records and the 1913 federal tax act. this established 501 (c) (4). It says: Civil leagues or organizations not organized for profit but operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare or local associations of employees, the membership of which is limited to the employees of a designated person or persons in a particular municipality, and the net earnings of which are devoted exclusively to charitable, educational, or recreational purposes.

    When the IRS reissued the 1959 Tax Codes Book it change the rule with out the authorization of congress. Only congress can make changes to the tax code. So the 501 (c) (4) that was listed is invalid and is not the correct law. Look up The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and see their paper they released on April 9th of 2013. Read it and you will see what has happened and why we need to end this investigation.

    May 23, 2013 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  23. Colin

    I am sure president Obama has her in line for another promotion. Seems like this Administration likes to promote those who strategically mislead the American people and work hard to quiet the voice of conservatism. What country are we in again? I hope cnn does not have the same strategy as the countries primary medium.

    May 23, 2013 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
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