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 Lerner's 5th amendment assertion is no longer valid.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Issa's office declined to explain what his counsel's legal basis was for deciding that her Fifth Amendment assertion is no longer valid.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. KBNJ

    Testify or get fired. Period. How many people here have a job where they can royally screw up, possibly break the law, and then just plead the 5th to our bosses, and STILL KEEP OUR JOBS?!?!

    May 23, 2013 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  2. Liberal Sense (Or lack thereof)

    Anything to make her life more miserable is OK with me. She deserves it.

    May 23, 2013 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  3. Bob

    It's not about whether or not they should grant the tax exemptions, it's about a fair evaluation of such. Targeting certain organizations based on political stance is not a fair evaluation. Everyone, and I mean everyone, knows the IRS is an organization that has been out of control for years. Time to clean it up. You can bet someone in the administration is behind this and Lois is doing her best not to divulge that information. Her pleading the 5th is not to protect innocent employees, it's to protect the administration. If it quacks like a duck, it's a duck.

    May 23, 2013 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  4. nbgb

    It seems that Issa is the new Joe McCarthy if anyone remembers him. Scary

    May 23, 2013 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  5. Sniffit

    "Testify or get fired. Period."

    Can't fire people on the basis of them invoking their Constitutional rights. What would be next? "Vote this way or you're fired."

    May 23, 2013 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  6. Beezbo

    Lerner: "I refuse to answer questions on the basis that what I say will show that I've done something wrong and I have the right to not incriminate myself ... ... .. also ... I've done nothing wrong"

    May 23, 2013 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  7. The Elephant in the Room

    Here`s the real story JOURNALISTS should be covering rather than the "he-said / she-said" tone that ISSA is promoting . . .

    Apparently, the LAW passed by CONGRESS states that tax exempt status is ONLY to be granted when thes 501 C4 organization engage EXCLUSIVELY in social welfare activities. "Exclusively" has a pretty clear meaning to most of us.

    Hovever in 1959, under the Republican Eisenhower admin, the regulations guiding IRS people took the liberty of chaning the word EXCLUSIVELY to "PRIMARILY". That`s a big difference and is the real root-cause corrective action that needs to be taken. Why isn`t any one in the press focusing on this "substance" over the "sizzle" of this lady taking the 5th? A real pulitzer-caliber journalist would press the members of the HOUSE committee on this. Shouldn`t Congress be more upset at the law being usurped that about disproportionate, but still LEGAL, scrutiny of T-Party groups?

    May 23, 2013 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  8. just sayin

    Ron L
    THIS IS RIDICULOUS, AND A WASTE OF TIME. They can call her back, she will repeat she is excercising her 5th amendment right and it will be OVER!! Its amazing how many people LOVE the constitution until it gets in the way of something they want.

    wrong again. if she waived her 5th amendment rights then she waived them for good on the matter at hand. if she refuses to testify, it is comtempt of congress and jail until she agrees to testify. and that would absolutely make my day.

    May 23, 2013 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  9. Kenneth Geller

    I can cnot say I love Rep.Issa, but in this case if she doesn't answer legitimate questions, jail her!

    May 23, 2013 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  10. Liberal Sense (Or lack thereof)

    Technically she did in fact waive her 5th amendment right. Can't make a statement then claim the 5th.

    Sorry can't have it both ways.

    May 23, 2013 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  11. Bob Burke

    It's her right to invoke the 5th. Does it do harm to her? Yes. Is it illegal? No.

    May 23, 2013 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  12. Liberal Sense (Or lack thereof)

    Demcorats using their constitutional rights while taking others constitutional rights away. How ironic

    May 23, 2013 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  13. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Granting tax exemption to a group called the "Tea Party" is just as wrong as granting 501(c)(4) tax exemption to the Democratic Party, Republican Party, Libertarian Party, etc.

    Finally, the 501(c)(4) statute requires such entities to be "exclusively" social welfare, not "mostly". All 501(c)(4) groups that participate in political activity ought to have their tax exemption revoked.
    Exactly. This is why I don't understand what all the hubub is about. Well actually I do. Republicans, at it again.

    May 23, 2013 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  14. cog in the wheel

    The tax exempt status these Tea Party groups were requesting is not appropriate for political activities. I'm glad they (the IRS) asked for proof. If next year the IRS is flooded with similar requests from liberal, libertarian, or any other political oriented organizations, I hope the IRS exercises the same due diligence–otherwise those of us who DO pay taxes will have to make up the difference. I think the IRS had it right this time.

    May 23, 2013 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  15. wp4j

    I worked for taxation for awhile and many of these auditors are naught more than gestapo, they like putting people in the hot seat, they like the power they hold. Lets see how Lois like it in the hot seat. Karma!

    May 23, 2013 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  16. bspurloc

    We the People have the RIGHT of the 5th amendment.
    wah wah bear arms but now all the armchair lawyers suddenly think the 5th amendment isnt valid....
    so i guess the Patriot Act is valid stomping 1st and 4th amendment rights....

    May 23, 2013 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  17. DocHollywood

    "In a survey of constitutional lawyers, most disagreed with Issa's conclusion that Lerner waived her Fifth Amendment right by declaring her innocence.".....Hell, that's never mattered in an Issa ran committee. The constitution only applies to those who protests it's false demise, not to those who actually use it. If this lady wants to use the constitution (her right to the 5th) with an Issa led committee, all she has to do is yell "my second amendment rights are being abused".

    May 23, 2013 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  18. Diogonese

    Who's protecting Amercans against their own government? Government agencies are out of control. They are too big and too gone wild.

    May 23, 2013 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  19. Wake up People!

    Oh come on Elephant......How would they ever be able to link it to Obama?!?!

    May 23, 2013 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  20. HBMT

    @Snifit, actually in some jobs, mostly government you can be fired for not answering questions related to your job during an administrative investigation. Falls under Garrity Rights. No person has the right to invoke the 5th Amed in a administrative investigation, they are simply refusing to answer and thus can and should be fired. I feel Issa needs to clarify that this is not a criminal investigation if it is not. Bring her in and ask the questions. If she attempts the 5th again, clearly state that it is not a criminal investigation and order her to answer the questions.

    May 23, 2013 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  21. cjacja

    You can not "waive" a right. You can choose not to exercise it.

    May 23, 2013 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  22. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    What would be next? "Vote this way or you're fired."
    Well actually Sniffit, there was that one Republican in Florida that sent out that letter to thousands of his employees during the last election....
    So I think some of them are quite cool with "Vote this way or you're fired".

    May 23, 2013 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  23. jon

    Oh, let this poor woman alone,Issa. You big bully – she has done nothing wrong, as opposed to you who generally have done nothing at all in your well paid job.

    May 23, 2013 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  24. Steve

    Government officials who stand on the fifth yet proclaim they did nothing wrong. How incredulous and inconsistent. I have the right not to incriminate myself yet I did nothing wrong. If that is truely the case then you look the American people in the eye and answer direct questions. Mr. President fire her immediately. She is not standing up to your promise of transparency. If you do not what is your message to the American people?

    May 23, 2013 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  25. w l jones

    Check the checker then what!

    May 23, 2013 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
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