June 29th, 2014
10:28 AM ET
8 years ago

Lerner attorney: Client vilified by GOP out of convenience

(CNN) - The attorney for embattled former IRS official Lois Lerner said Sunday that Republicans are denigrating an innocent woman for purely political purposes.

In an exclusive interview with CNN's Candy Crowley, attorney William Taylor said it's "convenient" for the GOP to suggest that Lerner's computer crash, which destroyed documents sought by a House Committee, means something "nefarious" was going on.

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"This is election-year politics," Taylor said on "State of the Union" in his first television appearance on the controversy.

"It's convenient to have a demon that they can create and point to."

An investigation that was initially focused on whether the IRS unfairly targeted certain political groups became more convoluted last week when the agency announced the destruction of Lerner's e-mails - lost in an apparent hard drive crash.

Taylor said Lerner walked into her office one day and her computer screen was blue. Her hard drive had crashed.

"The truth is this was one of those things that happened," he said. "At the time she did everything she could to retrieve it. She reported it right away. And that's all there is to it."

Lerner, who ran the division that carried out the IRS targeting, resigned last year after the Treasury Department's inspector general found that employees working under her used "inappropriate" criteria to scrutinize certain groups, particularly those with conservative political names.

Koskinen: IRS troubles 'suspicious,' but no crime uncovered

"People who want to give money to elections and do so in a tax-free way have to submit themselves to the scrutiny of the IRS to be sure they are complying with the rules that limit political activity," Taylor said.

"If the IRS is not looking at political activity in the C4 applications, which is what this is, they're not doing what they're supposed to be doing. So it's like saying ‘They're examining us for political activity’ when that's the exact criteria they're submitting for their applications."

Since her resignation, Lerner has refused to testify at hearings, invoking her constitutional right not to do so – a move that stirred suspicion that she had something to hide.

Koskinen's donations raised questions as House GOP calls for more documents

Taylor said, however, the reason he advised his client to invoke her Fifth Amendment right was because “there was no pretense that this would be a fair process” in the investigation led by House Oversight chairman Republican Rep. Darrell Issa of California.

Issa said Sunday, also in an exclusive interview to CNN, that Taylor "has said things that are not correct, or disingenuous or outright lied a number of times, it's been shown by e-mails."

"(An) attorney trying to get his client off the hook after flubbing and taking the fifth certainly will say and do a lot of things. But they're not held accountable," Issa said on "State of the Union."

Taylor wouldn’t respond specifically to Issa’s claim that he had lied, but again suggested Republicans are using his client has a political tool to gin up conservative enthusiasm ahead of the midterm elections.

Asked by Crowley if Lerner violated federal law requiring the agency to back up its communications, Taylor said his client “did exactly as she was required to do."

Another branch in the investigation, further inflaming Republican sentiment against Lerner, was the disclosure last week by Issa of e-mail exchanges showing that Lerner asked, while still on the job in 2012, whether the tax agency should investigate an issue involving Republican Sen. Charles Grassley.

E-mails: Ex-IRS official Lois Lerner queried Sen. Chuck Grassley invitation

The e-mails centered on an invitation from an unnamed group to Grassley to attend a seminar. What prompted Lerner's interest in December 2012 was whether travel expenses for Grassley's wife were included and whether that would violate income tax rules. However, it was not clear from the e-mails whether Lerner, who reached out to a co-worker, was inquiring about a potential audit of Grassley or whether she thought the IRS should look at the group. Her lawyer said she acted appropriately.

Taylor maintained his client’s innocence on all fronts, insisting that from the beginning “(Republicans’) only purpose to have her there is to vilify her.”

Lerner has received death threats against herself and her family. Taylor said she is not receiving protection.

“She has to go on living her life,” he said. “She's been made to be a villain in a way that's very, very unfair.”

Watch State of the Union with Candy Crowley Sundays at 9am ET. For the latest from State of the Union click here.

Filed under: Darrell Issa • IRS • TV-State of the Union
soundoff (153 Responses)
  1. Jolat

    Want to improve our legal system? Lawyers should be made to take the oath to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

    June 29, 2014 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  2. Dick Perry

    Have Dean and Sam verified that the IRS official isn't a demon?

    June 29, 2014 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  3. Jolat

    Obstruction of justice to hide abuse of power. For those of you who think this is ok, next time it will happen to you.

    June 29, 2014 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  4. Eagle0841

    " Once again, the communication process has broken down between us. It appears to me that you want to skip the arraignment process, go directly to trial, skip that, and get a dismissal. Well, I'm not about to revamp the entire judicial process just because you find yourself in the unique position of defending clients who say they didn't do it."
    My Cousin Vinny

    June 29, 2014 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  5. Anonymous

    Look at the posts. Dem supporters praise Lerner for targeting Tea Party groups. They love her for it. They admit she's guilty and feel she should continue to be able to commit these prejudiced crimes. Discrimination is an evil sin if inflicted on a Liberal but no big deal if it's inflicted on Repubs. An liberals wonder why people think they are low life, immoral, hypocritical trash.

    June 29, 2014 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  6. Melvina Wreiole

    REALLY??? Are the libbies and this corrupt administration now going to try and make some kind of victim out of this lying, conniving poor-excuse of a government employee? She is up to her neck in wrong-doing. You don't take the fifth if you think you did anything RIGHT!

    June 29, 2014 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  7. kenman14

    If this attorney doesn't want politicians to take on the administration in power, or to attack the "convenient" scandals, tell people like his client to stop doing ILLEGAL things and being part of the abusive power of the bloated federal bureaucracy that LONG ago stop serving our CITIZENS and has become a self-serving black hole for tax payers' money and rights!

    June 29, 2014 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  8. Independent Texas

    Lerner was working for the government of the United States and she is accountable for her actions and should explain her actions if called upon no matter which party is pushing it. Her pleading the 5th on a investigation into the IRS should have been an automatic termination of her employment. I believe she is a traitor.

    June 29, 2014 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  9. Arny Plumb

    Every corrupt public official needs to be banned from public service for life. I'd recommend capital punishment for the most egregious offenders.

    Just subpoena the NSA for her emails.

    June 29, 2014 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  10. Arny Plumb

    Ask the NSA they have all the records.....

    June 29, 2014 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  11. Tommy G

    There is already PLENTY of evidence that Lois Lerner violated numerous laws. The real problem is the corrupt and lawless AG Eric Holder refuses to investigate further and prosecute her. We have a federal government in control of far left criminals who protect other far left criminals. And they are using the government and all of its powers to attack and suppress their political opponents. I guess the leftist Democrats are saying it will be OK when the Republicans take power in 2014-2016 that they can then do the very same thing and target all liberal, left wing, progressive groups and contributors? If not why not? Why shouldn't you have to endure what you have inflicted on others? It might be the only real way to teach the far left Democrats the err of their ways.

    June 29, 2014 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  12. Monomachos

    I find it amusing that anyone is still trying to defend Lerner instead of calling on the IRS to just get the facts out so that we will all know exactly what happened and ensure that the IRS follows the rules in how it treats all political groups.
    Lerner was the first person to acknowledge wrongdoing in targeting conservative groups. Lerner says she did nothing wrong but then blocks the investigation by taking the 5th ( yes, her right, but what is she hiding?). The IRS has just further acknowledged its wrongdoing under her stewardship by agreeing to a settlement payout for illegally releasing information about individuals who are conservatives. We should all be asking for the whole truth to come out and demanding that the IRS be apolitical in all of its actions.

    June 29, 2014 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  13. Bobilino

    No one believes this guy or his client. If she was doing her job why did she plant the question to try and brush her admission of wrongdoing under the rug? She knew she was doing was highly illegal, as evidenced by her own actions to cover them up. This thing stinks to the Heavens. And to act like the GOP is using this as a political ploy is absurd. Republicans are genuinely ticked off and want to know what happened and who was involved. Too bad if that's politically inconvenient for Dems.

    June 29, 2014 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  14. itisalllies

    The IRS is a non government agency capable of taking anything you own with a stroke of a pin without a Judge approving it all. Right or wrong they can take what they want and if they are wrong it takes years to get it back if you get it back at all. Any other organization that could do this and that is not a government would be considered a terrorist organization.

    June 29, 2014 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  15. Just

    Lerner is a charter member of the very corrupt Obama political cartel.

    June 29, 2014 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  16. Malory Archer


    Lerner is a HERO as far as most people are concerned , she went after tea baggers and that's a good thing. You go girl.


    Actually, she went after both con and liberal/progressive organizations, and ironically the only groups denied tax exempt status were liberal/progressive organizations.

    June 29, 2014 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  17. Anonymous

    At the very least she's guilty of going along with the lie that "it was low level employees only". She's also guilty of going along with the lie that "liberal groups were targeted to", implying that liberal groups also went to attorneys for review for litigation challenges, like all Tea Party apps did. What "crimes" she may be guilty of I cannot say, but she is certainly guilty of lies and deception.

    June 29, 2014 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  18. Anonymous

    Well folks, I am selling bridges this week near your home town! Please! Its time to know when you are gullible and when you are just plain blinded by partisan spew! She pleaded the fifth amendment. That should tell you something right there. She did a criminal (not a civil) misdeed. She then conveniently retired on a fat federal pension. As a democrat I am appalled that Holder did not go after her. Its like Watergate, except no one is investigating from the democratic party. If you want a fair investigation you take part in the delving into process. Otherwise it is just a coverup of misdeeds that probably go higher than Lerner. Its very sad!

    June 29, 2014 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  19. John

    At the every least she is guilty of supporting the lie that "it was low level employees only". And she's also guilty of supporting the lie "liberal groups were targetted to" (when in fact it was only the Tea Party apps being sent to the legal division for possible legal prosecution). I don't know what "crimes" she may be guilty of, but she's certainly guilty of lying to and deceiving the American people.

    June 29, 2014 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  20. Tim

    If all IRS officials are demons, how could this one not be?

    June 29, 2014 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  21. John

    It was only low level employees involved, remember? No need for Lerner to take the Fifth – she wasn't even involved. LOL – Yeah, right!

    June 29, 2014 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  22. peg

    If I were charged with any crime I'd be innocent but I would take the 5th in ALL pre-trial court proceedings. It's a good tactic for a number of reasons. I'd explain the facts to the police during the investigation phase but if I got a prosecutor out to make a case for his/her own political goals and/or conviction rate (and yes, there are some who do that) I'd stay silent until the actual trial. There is no sense to feed your defense information to the opposition and/or see it get misstated in the press to poison the jury pool. If you honestly believe that taking the 5th is an admission of guilt, say so doing potential juror questioning; people who can not follow the law should not serve on juries and the law does say that Taking the 5th should not be an indication of guilt nor help against the defendant.

    June 29, 2014 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  23. shehar39

    the irs is a demon

    June 29, 2014 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  24. NodackFlipsidegpa

    The nano second a Republican is elected President all this anti Government stuff from the right stops. The nano second a Republican is elected President no Republican will care about the deficit anymore.

    June 29, 2014 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  25. herchato

    The IRS has always been an easy political target, no one likes paying taxes and the GOP is on it. They know criminals are the best at identifying other criminals (whether they are criminals or not) and the republicans have their best criminal (Darrell Issa) on the job. We can all rest easy.

    June 29, 2014 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
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