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 Lerner's 5th amendment assertion is no longer valid.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office declined to explain what his counsel's legal basis was for deciding that her Fifth Amendment assertion is no longer valid.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

    t. michaelides

    you cant proclaim your innocence at a hearing and then when it comes time to answer questions take five. Doesn't work that way
    Gong. That's exactly how it works. I think Oliver North took the 5th on some questions during the Iran-Contra hearings. He answered the ones he wanted to answer, and punted on the ones that he didn't. This woman simply didn't want to answer anything, especiallywith the Republicans warning of criminal trials and convictions.

    She'd have been a complete fool to answer to anything they had to say. What the Republicans are doing is akin to the police taking a "person of interest" into custody for questioning, That person should have a lawyer present, and they have the right to not answer any questions.

    May 23, 2013 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  2. Rudy NYC


    Yes, the GOP pulled an IRS stunt back in 2005 but it was not as big a deal and it was not an election year. The proof here is that the liberal press let it go as "no big deal".
    You're dead wrong, my boy. They opened the audit of the NAACP one month before the 2004 elections, and dragged out for two years, nearly until the 2006 elections. The audit cost the NAACP millions in attorney fees, and there was no wrongdoing uncovered.

    May 23, 2013 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  3. Marcus

    Just sayin' – You DO know that there is a difference between an admistrative investigation and a congressional investigation, right?
    Hint, the 5th was created specificallyto protect people from the type of investigations in which the congressional ones falls into, NOT the administrative ones.

    PS: Please quote your 'sources' that allows you to call others 'liars'.

    May 23, 2013 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  4. gstlab3

    absolute power corrupts absolutely.,

    The people have been set up like bowling pins and are now quite ready to be knocked down if you ask me.,

    Decades of off shoring the good jobs that created the one time only great middle class and their power in politics., Do'nt forget that little factoid kids.,
    It was followed by the base of our economy being destroyed and the industrial base of our country was finally crushed followed by increases in the number of poor underfuned bad schools and the number of impoverished bad homes from which the gang bangers culture arose was born.

    This of course created growing disparities in income and culture with ever growing poverty and crime and the corporate oil and mineral giants and their to big to fail banker wars on our freedoms and everywhere they go corruption poverty and wars have flourished.

    May 23, 2013 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  5. downwithnazis

    Rudy NYC is absolutely right. A witness can "take the 5th" at any time – repeat ANY time during sworn testimony. Where are the right wingers who don't want the rights guaranteed by the first ten amendments? Rubbing the barrels of their little guns?

    May 23, 2013 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  6. ted nuget

    Issa is a clown...

    May 23, 2013 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  7. tony

    I have not broken any laws.

    Isn't that how Exxon, GE , Apple and all the big corporations that fund the Republicans, explain why they don't pay any significant US taxes? Could we recall them to answer questions too?

    May 23, 2013 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  8. Wayne

    I don't see anything in the 5th ammend that says once you speak you lose that right:

    "nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself"

    Oh what Republicans might be arguring that since it say himself she can be compelled against herself.

    May 23, 2013 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  9. Bob smith

    Yes she can take the 5th if she broke the law and does not want to implicate herself if she did not break the law then she can be compelled to talk taking the 5th is like admitting you know you did something wrong and broke the law so you take the 5th so you do not have to implicate yourself you cant take the 5th to protect others just yourself. So its very simple she took the 5th there for she broke the law and knows it.

    May 23, 2013 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  10. Greg C.

    LoL...taking a "person of interest" into custody...really...since when has this Administration been doing things according to the rule of law....don't school us on how the system should work...tell that to your buddies in the White House and his henchmen. No one can recall who said what to whom, the IRS official going over 100 times to the White House and all he can remember about his visits and who he met with was the one time he took his kids to the Easter Egg Roll...I suppose Hillary was just baking cookies 'cause she surely wasn't doing her job and as far as I can tell this President certainly doesn't know how to manage the country and instead would rather spend time on the Hollywood circuit...

    May 23, 2013 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  11. Scott

    For those fools who don't pay attention to anything but sports I'll give you an example. When there were congressional hearing on steroid use in baseball a couple players made statements and then refused to answer questions. This lady is doing the same thing. It is legal and they can't do anything about it. The only thing that can happen is if info is found which contradicts her statement then perjury can be charges.

    May 23, 2013 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  12. Alan

    A public servant who is a supervisor of a department should be compelled to explain their action/non-action in regard to the application of policy, procedure, or the law. That is not being singled out, that is being held accountable for the job they are being paid to do.

    If she or any other public servant declines, refuses, or is unwilling to explain their actions for which they are being paid, then let them resign immediately with prejudice (meaning they can not be rehired and may lose all or part of any retirement they are eligible for.)

    Refusal to explain their professional actions/non-actions goes to the very heart of credibility as a supervisor. In any occupation, a supervisor must be able to explain/defend their action as it relates to their role of supervisor not only to their supervisors, but their subordinates as well. That is the burden every leader must bear.

    May 23, 2013 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  13. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    I don't know if Lois Lerner is a Republican or not but she told them didn't she?
    Set those boys straight!
    To paraphrase her statement:
    "I ain't done nothing. You can't find nothing. You can't make me do or say nothing. And I'm outta here, I've got a hair appointment and you jerks are making me late!".
    She STORMED out of there like she owned the place didn't she?
    Just like a Republican would!
    Good for her, whatever she is.

    May 23, 2013 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  14. freedom

    ACCOUNTABILITY. Democrats avoid it like the plague.

    May 23, 2013 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  15. Mike C

    Although I am on the conservative side, and I think the IRS did intentionaly target the conservative groups mentioned for extra scrutiny (ie. harrasment), I disagree strongly with Issa's assertion that she waived her right to invoke the 5th. And I certainly dopn't agree with those who equate taking the 5th to an admitance of guilt. The head of the commity was openly stating they were looking into criminal proceedings against people such as her, so she would be ill advised to give testimony under that light. If they really want her testimony, just immunize her from criminal prosecution in the matter. She has been a long serving government employee and probably a pretty nice person, Im guessing. A grant of immunity and a discussion then would reveal this as either a not well thought out policy or something more politcally driven.

    May 23, 2013 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  16. Nodack

    All I can say is that I cannot wait to vote against all Republicans in any election.

    May 23, 2013 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  17. Gumby

    Issa WRONG?? Go figure!

    May 23, 2013 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  18. mitchgam

    Just another excuse to make headlines without achieving anything.
    As long as their is an ongoing criminal investigation into the exact same issue, she is within her rights to not answer any question she doesn't want to answer.
    She can however answer some and not all questions at her choosing.
    But, you can bet to make more headlines this will end up in court.

    May 23, 2013 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  19. bucfaninil

    Politician + telling the truth == mathematical impossibility. They are bred and taught to be lying thieves. it's as much a part of their very nature as the color of their skin. This is why history almost always changes. Because what is "truth" now, most likely won't be truth later.

    May 23, 2013 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  20. Just Call Me Lucifer

    Hey look.... Joe McCarthy is back.

    May 23, 2013 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  21. David

    You have and should ALWAYS invoke the Fifth Amendment when asked any question relating to your guilt. Not only do you "have a right to remain silent", but you should use it. Look at the statement at hand – witness said "I have done nothing wrong".... now everyone thinks she's hiding something. Just best to never respond at all, for your words, right or wrong WILL be used against you.

    May 23, 2013 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  22. 1108


    Rudy NYC is absolutely right. A witness can "take the 5th" at any time – repeat ANY time during sworn testimony. Where are the right wingers who don't want the rights guaranteed by the first ten amendments? Rubbing the barrels of their little guns?


    Self proclaimed liberal Democrat and Harvard Law Professor seems to disagree with you

    May 23, 2013 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  23. 1108

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.


    Rudy NYC is absolutely right. A witness can "take the 5th" at any time – repeat ANY time during sworn testimony. Where are the right wingers who don't want the rights guaranteed by the first ten amendments? Rubbing the barrels of their little guns?


    Self proclaimed liberal Democrat and Harvard Law Professor seems to disagree with you

    Sorry forgot to include his name.... Alan Dershowitz

    May 23, 2013 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  24. manyote

    In the past, people like Frank Costello, Al Capone, Lucky Luciano, Olie North, used the fifth. And if someone in congress had the cojones to bring it up, people like Darth Cheney, GW Bush, Rummie, Condolence Rice[sic], et al of that dark administration would also take the fifth. What's the big deal now?

    May 23, 2013 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  25. dave

    A recently released "Fact Check" does not support many of the IRS' claims. Oooouch.

    May 23, 2013 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
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