GOP: Former IRS Exec Lerner Facing Contempt of Congress Charge

Thursday, 27 Feb 2014 07:50 AM
By Elliot Jager

Lois Lerner, former director of the IRS Exempt Organizations Division, could be held in contempt of Congress if she continues to refuse to testify before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which is investigating her possible role in targeting conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, Politico reported.

Several GOP lawmakers including Ohio's Rep. Jim Jordan and Utah's Jason Chaffetz told Politico that a contempt of Congress penalty was under consideration.

Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa said "We want her to come back and answer questions. We'll see on contempt."

GOP committee members argue Lerner lost her right against self-incrimination because she already proclaimed her innocence in an opening statement to the committee last May, but then invoked the Fifth Amendment and refused to answer questions.

Lerner's attorney William Taylor said his client was willing to testify if granted immunity or under a federal court subpoena, Fox News reported. Taylor says that Lerner did not waive her rights by asserting her innocence in that opening statement.

Taylor also said that Lerner had received death threats and that forcing her to appear when she would anyway not testify could further endanger her safety and that of her family and served no purpose but to embarrasses her.

Issa said Lerner's testimony on March 5, when hearings resume, was critical to understanding the treatment of tea party and other conservative groups who sought to obtain tax-exempt status.

"Documents and testimony obtained by the Committee show that she played a significant role in scrutinizing applications for tax exempt status from conservative organizations."

Lerner's testimony "will allow the committee to understand how and why the IRS targeted certain organizations," Issa wrote to Taylor, according to Politico.

Citing a letter from IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, Elijah Cummings the ranking Democrat on the committee said that the nine-month Republican-led investigation had so far cost taxpayers $14 million.