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 Lerner's 5th amendment assertion is no longer valid.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office declined to explain what his counsel's legal basis was for deciding that her Fifth Amendment assertion is no longer valid.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

    I pity her when she has to answer. she will rat on the whole bunch and this scandal will explode to epic proportions.

    might not be a sole left in this administration

    May 23, 2013 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  2. JMorcan

    This would be a good time to stop all taxation. That's the only means to prevent this government from squandering our earnings.

    May 23, 2013 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  3. Steve

    I do not think this goes up to Obama. I voted for him but now am questioning my decision. He ran on a platform of making a change in Washington. Specifically he promised us transparency when it came to his Administration. Naively, I believed that he would follow through. What we see however is a disturbing pattern of the same old. I want him to be the man he ran as and fullfill the promises he made. I recognize some of what he trys to do is blocked. But to be transparent or not is a conscious decision he is making. Not controlled by the other party.

    May 23, 2013 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  4. Mak

    The fact remains that no one – regardless of what they "believe" – knows with any certainty what she did or did not do; anything else is speculative. But this is a political rather than judicial proceeding – with all the ugliness attendant to it, so all the talk of 'nothing to hide' or seeking the truth really has to be taken with a degree of skepticism. I do not trust her anymore than I would trust Issa.

    As for her 5th amendment, self preservation alone dictates she should have kept her mouth shut – she gains nothing by saying a single word.

    May 23, 2013 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  5. northerstar

    She as the right to have her lawyer sitting next to her. If she has not done nothing wrong or criminal why not be prepared to answer questions. If any questions might put her in jepordy, then she could take the 5th. Reading a carefully written statement claiming she did nothing wrong and then stating she would answer no questions – What was the point of letting her go before Congress if that was the intended outcome. What a terrific public servant !

    May 23, 2013 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  6. Loathstheright

    Issa is a liar....he knew about this last year. The IRS should do exactly what they were doing, the Tea Party Anything is simply hiding who is giving them money and everything they do is political, so they should not get Tax Exempt on anything.

    May 23, 2013 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  7. Anonymous

    Voice of Reason said:
    ""...Chairman Issa has concluded that Ms. Lerner's 5th amendment assertion is no longer valid..."
    "You cannot simply revoke the bill of rights.""
    I wish the left would understand your statement as it pertains to the 2nd amendment....

    May 23, 2013 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  8. Thomas

    Issa / Cruz

    We need to black list those sympathetic to the truth .

    May 23, 2013 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  9. California

    I think we might have to leave this administration out of the history books or at least the facts!

    May 23, 2013 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  10. crooket

    Tax exemption is a crime. Anyone and any organization like Camp Ministries and many other organizations are milking the US Government. Everybody who takes in money has to declare it. So easy to do yet our politicians are corrupt and do what they want.

    May 23, 2013 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  11. damia.savon

    *HMBT – you have the Garrity Rights backwards. The point of the Garrity Rights is that a government employee cannot be compelled to give up their rights. The 5th amendment specifically states that one of its protections is against the government. Testifying before Congress is, in essence, testifying before the government and you are perfectly fine to refuse to incriminate yourself before it.

    To all those here who are calling for her termination, stating she is a criminal and so forth, your comments are a major reason why the 5th amendment exists and is important. While people love to say that "if you have nothing to hide then you don't need to take the 5th", that is certainly not the case. People go along with this all the time and end up in jail for it when their statements get turned against them later. Overzealous prosecution is one reason to take the 5th. The fact that many people have prejudged the case is another. If you think someone is guilty of a crime already then the purpose of questioning is not to find general information but to try to elicit a confession or evidence. While some people might be clever enough with their language to avoid saying anything possibly incriminating, most are not. It is better to take the 5th than risk it.

    Does anyone else find it amusing that so many people who are against big, intrusive, evil and overreaching government are rabidly advocating that someone gave up a protection designed to prevent abuse by the government?

    May 23, 2013 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  12. Rudy NYC

    Wake up People!

    Add me too Sly and Dominican Mama. I'm confused. I thought it was the job of the IRS to make sure these groups qualify for tax exempt status. I'm no expert so I could be wrong.....
    If you listen to Republicans, one would think that only conservative groups were more closely examined. The problem is that most of these groups have activities that make them political parties.

    Case in point: the "NorCal Tea Party Patriots" is the first group to file suit claiming some civil rights infraction. This is the exact same group that claims to not endocrse candidates, but yet they published a list of "recommended" candidates that their "member patriots" should vote for just a week before last November's election. The group even conducts fund raisers, but makes no mention of where or how the money is spent.

    May 23, 2013 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  13. Marie MD

    If anyone needs to be recalled its this car thief/illegal gun in your face gun freak.
    How do mutants like these get anywhere near congress and sit as oversight committee leadership?
    You CANNOT qualify for tax exempt if you are being handled by the koch brothers. Plain and simple.
    There is no way the tea trolls will not use their tax exempt status to collect money (illegally) come election time and use it for the tea crazy candidates.
    Just look at their politicians. Everything is bad or a sin until they are caught doing it then it's okay or a misunderstanding.

    May 23, 2013 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  14. Over it

    Where to start.....why is no one accountable for their actions anymore in this country? – oh ,well, except for us regular people. I am so over our high ranking government officials claiming "lack of communication", ignorance, and the like. Or "pleading the fifith", or invoking executive privilege when questioned about why things go wrong. I am not a hater of government at all, BUT when over and over I hear that the people running it have no idea what is going on and therefore cannot answer any questions – much less be accountable, what's the point??? I think right now, if our government is too big to be accountable, then it is just too big PERIOD.

    Regarding Ms. Lerner, How are "We the People" supposed to keep checks and balances on our government via our elected officials if people like Lois Lerner are just allowed to plead the fifth? and keep her job?? What?? Who gets to do that? If I am employed by a company and there appears to be an issue in a division that I oversee, my employer has every right to question me. I can of course refuse to comply. But, I am reasonably certain that I would also forfeit my job in so doing. Further, as a taxpayer, the IRS has the right to audit me. I'm fairly certain if I "plead the fifth" I either pay what they say, or go to jail. Seems like basic common sense to me. Ms. Lerner – keeps job, no jail. Mind boggling!

    Second, let's keep in mind that Lois Lerner is ultimately not just employed by the IRS. Her salary is paid with tax dollars which means she works for me and every other tax paying citizen of this country. Her refusal to answer questions
    only delays and impedes an investigation that will and should continue resulting in more time spent away from Congressional work AND more tax dollars spent. In the end, the truth will come out – she is only wasting our time and money delaying the inevitable.

    Finally, I do not think she should be granted immunity to get her to testify. She is too high up in the organization for that nonsense. She needs to be accountable if there is accountability on her part discovered. I hope our officials are smart enough to see that this is the game her lawyers are playing. They should subpoena all the records and email they can from her and her division. Additionally, go find a lower level worker who was involved, grant them immunity and get THEM to testify. I truly hope for her that her hands are in fact clean in this whole mess. But , the "plead the fifth" deal gives me serious doubts.

    One more thing – can a reporter or someone please confirm for me that my tax dollars are not also paying for her legal defense on top of everything else?? PLEASE???

    May 23, 2013 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |

    I think only Democrats should pay taxes since they voted for the Tax KING of America Barack Obama. 2016 the year Socialism is dead when a Republican is voted for Presidenent and cleans up the Obama Mess.

    May 23, 2013 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  16. Mike in Fairfax, vA

    Lois Lerner did NOT donate to Romney and she is NOT a republican. Not sure where some of you people get your information. AND, she did the same thing as head of the Enforcement Office at the Federal Election Commission. You guys really need to read more and not just parrot what you hear others saying. Now, it doesn't really make any difference is she is a republican, democrat, libertarian or anything else! Her office has done something wrong AND almost most importantly for some of you, they ADMIT that they did something wrong! They ADMIT that they are emarrassed about it. Yet you sit here and type that they DIDN'T do anything wrong. Amazing and unbelievable.

    May 23, 2013 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  17. tamtag

    It is wrong to target people of a certain political party period. I am sure if a Republican was president and this happened to progressive groups that Democrats would be crying foul too.

    May 23, 2013 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  18. jurby

    "I have not done anything wrong. I have not broken any laws." uh, really? if you haven't done anything wrong nor broken any laws then there's no reason for you to plead the 5th...

    May 23, 2013 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  19. jerry5555

    So let me understand this liberals... The must untrusted entity in our government, the IRS, is targeting people out of spite and you think it's not a big deal. If this terrible act cannot win bipartisan support then we've lost all hope.

    May 23, 2013 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  20. Bob C.

    "Survey of Constitutional Lawyers". Translation: a bunch of uber-liberal educators who have probably never seen the inside of a courtroom.

    May 23, 2013 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  21. yo!

    She'll claim the 5th again ... I guarantee it. She's not a public figure so it won't affect her as much as it did against people like Mark Mcguire.

    May 23, 2013 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  22. don in albuquerque

    If I were her attorney I wouldn't allow her to testify too the Witchfinder General either. I think it is time for a whole bunch of people to start showing their disdain for Issa and just taking the 5th. Congress is NOT a court of law and it is high time the GOP was told that.

    May 23, 2013 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  23. ll

    Issa = One tax payer funded witch hunt after another.


    May 23, 2013 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  24. Wake up People!

    Thanks Rudy.
    Yo, yankeegohome.

    President Obama ain't packing ish until January 2017!

    Even then it won't be to the "hood". Or the trailer park......

    May 23, 2013 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  25. frankieworkz

    Let’s just get a Special Prosecutor and be done the lies and nonsense. I love how the liberal MSM always say most people agree with us. What you have here is Liberal America on full display leaning forward. When they say Lean Forward they mean the American Public, lean forward and take it that is! Liberals know what’s best for us and don’t care what the majority really thinks again because the liberal know better. Next thing we will see is Team Oblammer and the MSM move to the let's change the subject phase in where they try to divert attention to another subject, like Jobs, taxes, Guantanamo, National Security, Bush whatever they think it will take to distract from getting to the truth! Because let’s face it liberals think the TRUTH is just a witch hunt, the American public doesn't deserve the TRUTH they should just take our word for it and move along! The truth is this came from very highest levels of Team Oblammer and If Oblammer didn't order it he was most certainly aware it was happening! The Truth will come out it’s just a matter of time!!!

    May 23, 2013 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
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