House Votes to Hold Former IRS Official Lois Lerner in Contempt

Republicans take their campaign against the agency to the next level.

Lois Lerner, former director of the Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), listens during a hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Capitol Hill March 5, 2014 in Washington, DC. Chairman Darrell Issa(R-CA) questioned witness Lerner, to see if the Internal Revenue Service has been targeting US citizens based on their political beliefs. Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment right not to testify.
National Journal
Sarah Mimms
Add to Briefcase
Sarah Mimms
May 7, 2014, 3:04 p.m.

The House voted to hold former In­tern­al Rev­en­ue Ser­vice of­fi­cial Lois Lern­er in con­tempt on a 231-187 vote Wed­nes­day, as Re­pub­lic­ans work to un­cov­er the depth of Lern­er’s in­volve­ment in the agency’s tar­get­ing of con­ser­vat­ive groups from 2010 to May 2013.

Six Demo­crats broke with their party to sup­port the con­tempt vote: Ron Barber of Ari­zona, John Bar­row of Geor­gia, Col­lin Peterson of Min­nesota, Mike McIntyre of North Car­o­lina, Nick Ra­hall of West Vir­gin­ia, and Patrick Murphy of Flor­ida. All are fa­cing Re­pub­lic­an chal­lengers in tough dis­tricts for Demo­crats in Novem­ber.

“Who’s been fired over the tar­get­ing of con­ser­vat­ive groups by the IRS? No one that I’m aware of. Who’s gone to jail for vi­ol­at­ing the law? When is the ad­min­is­tra­tion go­ing to tell the Amer­ic­an people the truth?” House Speak­er John Boehner told re­port­ers Wed­nes­day morn­ing. “One would have to guess, if they’re not will­ing to tell the Amer­ic­an people the truth, it must not be very pretty.” 

Lern­er was found in con­tempt of Con­gress after in­vok­ing her Fifth Amend­ment right against self-in­crim­in­a­tion at a House hear­ing last May. House Re­pub­lic­ans ar­gue that, be­cause Lern­er gave an open­ing speech testi­fy­ing to her in­no­cence in the in­quiry be­fore plead­ing the Fifth, she had waived her right to re­fuse to testi­fy. Re­pub­lic­ans sub­poenaed Lern­er to testi­fy again in March, when she again as­ser­ted her right to re­main si­lent, set­ting off the con­tempt pro­ceed­ings.

The is­sue is now headed for the courts, where a judge will have to de­term­ine wheth­er Re­pub­lic­ans’ claim that Lern­er waived her rights is cor­rect. The House also voted Wed­nes­day to re­quest that At­tor­ney Gen­er­al Eric Hold­er ap­point a spe­cial pro­sec­utor in the case. Twenty-six Demo­crats, in­clud­ing those who sup­por­ted the con­tempt vote, backed this second vote. If con­victed, Lern­er faces a max­im­um pen­alty of a $100,000 fine and up to a year in jail.

This is the second time in as many years that the House has voted to hold a mem­ber of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion in con­tempt. In 2012, House Re­pub­lic­ans and 17 Demo­crats voted to hold Hold­er in con­tempt of Con­gress over his re­fus­al to turn over doc­u­ments re­lated to the Fast and Furi­ous scan­dal. That con­tempt vote went nowhere, as mem­bers of the Justice De­part­ment an­nounced they would not pur­sue crim­in­al charges or a grand jury against the head of their own de­part­ment. The ad­min­is­tra­tion later in­voked ex­ec­ut­ive priv­ilege over the doc­u­ments in ques­tion.

But Re­pub­lic­ans say they feel more con­fid­ent that the con­tempt vote against Lern­er will be suc­cess­ful. “Eric Hold­er, of course, is the highest law-en­force­ment of­ficer in the coun­try. Lois Lern­er is not,” said Rep. John Flem­ing, R-La. “And so she doesn’t en­joy the same level of pro­tec­tion that he does per­son­ally, and also she can’t claim ex­ec­ut­ive priv­ilege, which Eric Hold­er per­haps can.”

“There’s a fairly sub­stan­tial dif­fer­ence between ask­ing [Hold­er] to … pro­sec­ute him­self and someone else,” a seni­or House Re­pub­lic­an aide said.

But it’s un­likely that the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s re­sponse to Con­gress’s hold­ing Lern­er in con­tempt will be any dif­fer­ent. Lern­er has re­portedly already been in­ter­viewed by the Justice De­part­ment, and an­onym­ous “law-en­force­ment of­fi­cials” told The Wall Street Journ­al in Janu­ary that no crim­in­al charges would be filed against IRS of­fi­cials over their tar­get­ing of con­ser­vat­ive groups. Pres­id­ent Obama told Fox News dur­ing his Su­per Bowl in­ter­view that he does not be­lieve the IRS dis­played “a smidgen of cor­rup­tion” in the mat­ter.

All the same, Re­pub­lic­ans are hope­ful that the con­tempt vote will provide some real pres­sure for Lern­er to testi­fy.

“Ul­ti­mately, she’s go­ing to be forced to either come for­ward and testi­fy, or she’s go­ing to have to ap­ply for im­munity and testi­fy,” Flem­ing says. “And pres­sure will con­tin­ue to mount un­til that hap­pens…. And if not, again, I think there’s a lot of mount­ing evid­ence against her — crim­in­al evid­ence — and so we’re go­ing to con­tin­ue to mount the pres­sure and this is just a next step in that dir­ec­tion.”

What We're Following See More »
TALKING CLIMATE CHANGE
Al Gore Meeting with Ivanka Trump
49 minutes ago
THE LATEST
PLENTIFUL OIL RESERVES
Trump Native American Council Recommends Privatizing Indian Land
55 minutes ago
THE LATEST

A group advising Donald Trump on Native American issues is encouraging him to privatize Indian reservations, taking the land out of the hands of the "suffocating federal bureaucracy." Currently, tribes have rights to the land but don't own it, meaning they can drill, but only under strenuous government restriction. Markwayne Mullin, a Republican congressman from Oklahoma and a member of the Cherokee tribe thinks the plan would be supported by Native American tribes nationally.

Source:
IT’S OFFICIAL
Trump to Nominate Carson to Lead HUD
4 hours ago
THE LATEST

As has been rumored for a week, Donald Trump will nominate Ben Carson, his former rival, to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development. In a statement, Trump said, "We have talked at length about my urban renewal agenda and our message of economic revival, very much including our inner cities. Ben shares my optimism about the future of our country and is part of ensuring that this is a Presidency representing all Americans. He is a tough competitor and never gives up."

Source:
TOO COSTLY, SAYS GREEN PARTY
Stein Drops Pennsylvania Recount
4 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Supporters of Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein on Saturday withdrew a last-ditch lawsuit in Pennsylvania state court aimed at forcing a statewide ballot recount, another major setback in the effort to verify the votes in three states that provided President-elect Donald Trump his margin of victory. Ms. Stein’s campaign announced in a statement Saturday that the Pennsylvania lawsuit had been dropped after the court demanded that a $1 million bond be posted by the 100 Pennsylvania residents who brought the suit."

Source:
ANOTHER MORNING TWEETSTORM
Trump Threatens 35% Tariff on Companies that Move Overseas
4 hours ago
THE LATEST

In a series of early-morning tweets on Sunday, Donald Trump threatened companies that attempt to relocate out of the country. "Any business that leaves our country for another country, fires its employees, builds a new factory or plant in the other country, and then thinks it will sell its product back into the U.S. without retribution or consequence, is WRONG!," he wrote. "There will be a tax on our soon to be strong border of 35% for these companies."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login