In a deja vu appearance, former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner once again pleaded the Fifth Amendment at a congressional hearing Wednesday that quickly devolved into political bickering between Democrats and Republicans.
The obvious disillusionment of Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) was evident.
Lois Lerner was the head of the IRS division accused of improperly targeting tea party and other conservative groups. She allegedly was the leader responsible for extra scrutiny toward conservative groups when they applied for tax-exempt status during the 2010 and 2012 elections.
She became the first IRS official to publicly disclose the practice.
However, when summoned to testify in her first appearance before the House Oversight Committee, she invoked her Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate herself.
She was recalled Wednesday by Committee Chairman Darrell Issa with the understanding from her attorney she would testify without invoking the Fifth Amendment.
Lerner did appear, but again invoked the Fifth Amendment at least nine times when questioned by a rattled and angry Issa.
Issa quickly adjourned despite attempts by Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the committee, to make a statement. A thoroughly bedraggled Issa angrily demanded the microphone be turned off. “Shut it down,” Issa said and Cummings’ microphone was turned off.
Rep. Cummings of Maryland, an ardent supporter of President Obama, wasn’t through yet.
He called the hearing “fraudulent, un-American and outrageous.” “The investigation also hasn’t shown any links to the White House,” Cummings said.
Supposedly last year’s revelations sparked the Justice Department to begin a criminal investigation. But much like “Fast and Furious,” Solyndra and many other scandals that rocked the White House. Attorney General Eric Holder, a close friend of the president has reported nothing behind any allegations in any of the cases.
That being said, it is a known fact that IRS agents were reviewing tea party groups’ applications to determine the amount of political activity the groups were engaged in. Under current rules, groups applying for tax-exempt status under section 501 (c) 4 of the tax code can engage in politics but it cannot be their main emphasis.
An exasperated Chairman Issa said after the abrupt end of the hearings, “At this point, roads lead to Ms. Lerner. Without her testimony, “it may dead-end at Ms. Lerner.”
Why won’t she testify if she has nothing to hide, as she said on her first visit to the committee?
Issa said the committee will consider whether to vote to hold her in contempt. Cummings said he does not believe Lerner waived her constitutional rights.