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 Lerner's 5th amendment assertion is no longer valid.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office declined to explain what his counsel's legal basis was for deciding that her Fifth Amendment assertion is no longer valid.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


    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.
    In fact, the Democrats did cry foul in 2004 when the IRS went after Greenpeace, the NAACP, and a California-based church after they criticized George W Bush - but the GOP-controlled Congress didn't call any hearings then. Wonder why not?

    May 23, 2013 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  2. damia.savon

    #northerstar – she was compelled to testify before congress and complied with that subpoena. However, once there she was under no obligation to actually give testimony or answer questions.

    #overit – there is a difference between a private employer and the government. A private employer has the right to fire you if you want to invoke your 5th amendment right. A private employer, itself, is not going to prosecute you for criminal activity. The IRS, Congress and so forth is the government and not a private employer, the 5th amendment specifically states that you are protected against being forced by the government to potentially incriminate yourself in a criminal act.

    May 23, 2013 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  3. Chip

    Not a "sole" left in Washington? What, did someone eat all the fish up, or sumtin? Tsk tsk....double fist Washington fat cats....take us to break you fat cat...

    May 23, 2013 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  4. XanJester

    What a surprise! Issa and the rest of the criminal conservatives are trying to take someones rights away!

    May 23, 2013 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  5. fayray11x

    Issa's office declined to explain what his counsel's legal basis was for deciding that her Fifth Amendment assertion is no longer valid.

    why don't they just tell the truth and say they want to drag this out as long as possible and that means until the next election, which is the GOP's only goal here

    May 23, 2013 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  6. dashguy

    Oh yeah. I would believe someone who teaches at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice on this one! lol

    May 23, 2013 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  7. dashguy

    If she did nothing wrong with respect to everything and everyone, why won't she talk? I believe she does not want to incriminate our second-term anti-christ!

    May 23, 2013 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  8. db


    B.O. has been transparent! As we've all witnessed, he's the invisible man when crucial events are happening. Clearly he value's plausible deniability more than honorably discharging the duties of the office he holds.

    May 23, 2013 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  9. Liberal Sense (Or lack thereof)

    I'm sure Obama will step in just about the time the IRS must explain themselves just like when he claimed executive privelage with Holder on Fast & Furious. We all know Holder was clearly guilty there and probably even Obama himself.

    May 23, 2013 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  10. Jeff in Virginia

    Somebody should call CNN to testify about Dana Bash's abysmal coverage of this fake scandal.

    May 23, 2013 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  11. Ron in Texas

    When the Speaker of the House states he wants to know who is going to jail I can understand why someone would take the 5th. I am a republican but the partisanship has caused such gridlock nothing gets done. Why do all these obviously political groups get tax exempt status. That applies to both sides of the aisle. A moderate republican or moderate democrat can not win their primary so we are stuck with the far left and far right which do nothing as far as work for the people. We need reform the election funding laws and tax codes. The elected officials should be issued signs that read "Bought and Paid For, brought to you by". Applies to both sides.

    May 23, 2013 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  12. sniff n stinx

    Gosh she's STILL with the IRS. Funny. I read somewhere she has been given a position to oversee tax depravity compliance in Obamacare...Nice CNN. Nice.

    May 23, 2013 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  13. 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

    May 23, 2013 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  14. Fish

    The witch hunt continues. If the GOP were this diligent with legislating perhaps they would still be relevant. As of now they are still the party of NO!!!

    May 23, 2013 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  15. svann

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

    There is no legal basis. Only a political basis.

    May 23, 2013 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  16. carol

    The issue to me is why is there even a consideration that the TEA Party is a 501 c 4 tax exempt group. How could this group be social welfare organization? No congress can't bully people out of their rights. After all isn't that the same thing they are accusing the IRS of doing?

    May 23, 2013 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  17. Rudy NYC

    northerstar wrote on page 6:

    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 !
    What was the point of letting her go before Congress if that was the intended outcome? Good question. I should point out that she was subpoenaed to appear by Rep. Issa and company. Maybe you should ask them. The plan to subpoena her to appear once again.

    May 23, 2013 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  18. JimMF


    Widespread harassment by a government agency that favors the Obama administration and it is not headline news for CNN? A top IRS official pleads the fifth because she does not want to INCRIMINATE herself and people on this page go after the GOP?

    Can you say "unprincipled political hacks"?

    May 23, 2013 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  19. Rudy NYC

    The Real Tom Paine wrote:

    Lois Lerner is a Rrepublican , appointed by GW Bush , donated 2500 to Romney in 2012 . You were referring to partisanship?
    It is my understanding that there are only two political appointees in the IRS, the commissioner and the assistant. Everyone else is a career employee. I don't want to insult the woman's age by saying she's likely been there for years and years, if not decades, but that is probably the case with Lerner.

    May 23, 2013 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  20. Dan

    This is all just partisan politics. Nothing more. Issa is a criminal and I find it laughable that he would go after anyone. He's worse than those he tried to prosecute.

    May 23, 2013 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  21. Wallaceboy

    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". Even the press (Pravda) is not letting up on the Obama admin on this one. Love to see Barry get the axe over this one.....

    May 23, 2013 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  22. groinksan

    C'mon people! You can't be this clueless on the 5th. The proper way to take the 5th is to simply take the microphone, say you're taking the 5th, and then walk away. You cannot under the amendment make a statement, and then say you're pleading the 5th. The idea of the 5th is to protect you from having to make a statement. Once she made the statement, she voided her right to plead the 5th. It is written as clear as day in the amendment! This CNN article also made clear that she is STILL under the current subpoena, therefore she is still bound to give testimony. In addition, her counsel cannot say that she said she was going to take the 5th days before appearing. You must be sworn in FIRST, and then she can plead the 5th. Her counsel are idiots to even allow her to make that statement prior. Don't blame the Republicans or the system. She claims to be a compliant government worker. She claims to know law. Something as simple as this – how can one screw this up!??!!

    May 23, 2013 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  23. Malory Archer


    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".


    The republican congress has known about this incident for over a year. Had they acted then the "librul" press would have been all over it like a cheap suit. Why did they not say something when they first learned of it?

    May 23, 2013 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  24. JSB

    @ Carol

    Move on and other similar groups on the left are 501c4 organizations. There is no particular reason why they would be eligible for this status and conservative groups would not be.

    May 23, 2013 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  25. Norbert

    Darrell Issa is a former car thief who entered politics with no money to speak of and today his net worth is $460 million. And he is the chair of the House's Government Oversight and Reform Committee and is holding hearings into the IRS scandal. How Republican.

    May 23, 2013 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
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