Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said Thursday that forcing embattled IRS official Lois Lerner, who invoked her constitutional right to refuse to testify this week, back to Capitol Hill for a second time “seems more like a partisan exercise in futility."
The committee’s chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., has said that Lerner forfeited her right to refuse to answer questions by delivering an opening statement at a hearing he held on Wednesday. Lerner, who led the tax-exempt division of the IRS when the targeting of conservative groups for extra scrutiny took place, declared, “I have not done anything wrong. I have not broken any laws,” before invoking the Fifth Amendment.
She appeared before the committee under subpoena.
“After consulting with counsel, Chairman Issa has concluded that Ms. Lerner's Fifth Amendment assertion is no longer valid,” said Issa spokesman Ali Ahmad. On Wednesday, Issa decided not to adjourn his oversight hearing but instead to recess it. That maneuver allows him to recall Lerner without issuing a second subpoena.
Cummings said in a statement to National Journal that “it would have been helpful to have Ms. Lerner’s testimony about the misguided tactics of IRS employees in Cincinnati in order to bring about the reforms necessary to restore public trust in the agency.”
But given that she invoked the Fifth Amendment, Cummings said “forcing her to come back in a second time just to have another standoff in front of cameras seems more like a partisan exercise in futility than a responsible way to proceed with this investigation.”
Issa has not yet set a date or time for when Lerner would be recalled.
This article appears in the May 24, 2013 edition of NJ Daily.