Issa to recall Lois Lerner
House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa is recalling former IRS official Lois Lerner to testify about IRS targeting of conservative groups.
When last we left our intrepid Tea Party targeter in May of 2013, she was taking the fifth before Iss'a committee - after declaring her absolute innocence in an opening statement. The Oversight Committee has ruled that because she made the statement, she waived any right she had to protection from self-incrimination.
n his letter to William Taylor, Lerner's attorney, Issa said that her testimony "remains critical to this committee's investigation."
"Because the committee explicitly rejected her Fifth Amendment privilege claim, I expect her to provide answers when the hearing reconvenes on March 5," Issa wrote.
Taylor told The Hill he would probably respond to Issa on Wednesday.
Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.), the top Democrat at House Oversight, said that "only one thing has changed in the nine months since Lois Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment right in response to Republican accusations of criminal activity - it's an election year."
"Republicans are wrong on the law, and calling her back will serve no purpose other than causing a media spectacle and feeding a false political narrative."
Cummings and other House Democrats had asked to hold a hearing with constitutional scholars before voting on whether Lerner waived her rights. Democrats have cited experts who said she did not.
Lerner’s attorney has previously denied that she waived her Fifth Amendment rights, and House Democrats have suggested that Republicans rushed into the vote ruling that she had.
At that vote, held last June, both Democrats and Republicans suggested potentially giving Lerner some form of immunity to answer questions.
Lerner retired from the IRS in September, after previously declining a request from agency brass to resign. She had announced in May – via a planted question at a legal conference – that the IRS had wrongly singled out Tea Party groups.
In her appearance before Oversight last May, Lerner, the former head of an IRS division overseeing tax-exempt groups, said: "I have not done anything wrong. I have not broken any laws. I have not violated any IRS rules or regulations.”
Lerner came under sharp criticism from both Democrats and Republicans for her oversight of the tax-exempt division in the days immediately following her apology.
If her lawyer has half a brain, she'll continue to keep her mouth shut until she gets some kind of immunity deal - if Republicans are of a mind to offer her one. But it may be that Lerner has fallen on her sword for the administration and will maintain Omerta all the way to the end.
This is unfortunate because since her abbreviated appearance before the committee last May, emails have surfaced that call into question the story she told in her opening statement. There is a lot of questions that need answering, not only about the targeting, but the development of new rules governing political activity of non profits. Lerner was in a unique position to lay out the facts of the matter, and her continued silence would put a big roadblock in front of the commitee's investigation.
It will be interesting to see if House Republicans hold Lerner in contempt if she doesn't testify. No Democrat will go along with it and it would take months of working its way through the courts before any resolution was achieved.
Bottom line: It's doubtful anything new will come out of her appearance on March 5.