Lawyers for the House of Representatives have concluded that the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has legal standing to pursue contempt charges against Lois Lerner. Lerner is the former head of the exempt organizations division of the IRS. The contempt charge comes from Lerner’s refusal to testify before the Committee earlier this month.
The counsel’s opinion is in direct contradiction to the Committee’s top Democrat, Elijah Cummings (Md.), whose letter to House Speaker John Boehner contended that a “fatal procedural error” by the Committee had compromised any House contempt action.
The House’s general counsel found that the Committee satisfied the constitutional requirements for pursuing contempt charges. Specifically, that Lerner be clearly apprised that the Committee demanded answers to its questions notwithstanding her pleading the Fifth.
Cummings reacted swiftly, stating: “Unfortunately, this after-the-fact opinion is directly contradicted by Stan Brand, who previously served as House Counsel himself, by Mort Rosenberg, a Congressional Research Service expert with decades of experience, and by more than twenty independent legal experts.” Cummings also released opinions from 25 independent legal experts across the country to support his point.
Threats of contempt charges don’t stop with Lerner. After IRS Commissioner John Koskinen informed the Committee that he needed more time to comply with the Committee’s request for Lerner’s email correspondence among other documents, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) threatened to hold Koskinen and the IRS in contempt if the materials weren’t produced quickly. Koskinen defended the IRS, stating that the agency has spent up to $14 million complying with this investigation and has compiled more than 690,000 pages of documents.