The theme of this week’s blogs is déjà vu. Earlier today we told you that the charitable deduction is being threatened – AGAIN. And Lois Lerner, former head of the IRS division on exempt organizations, refused to answer questions – AGAIN. Readers of this blog remember Lerner pleading the Fifth in May 2013 at a congressional hearing concerning the IRS targeting scandal.
Yesterday, Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa reconvened that hearing to continue the investigation. But Lerner once again asserted her Fifth Amendment right not to testify.
These hearings have become a circus. This past Sunday, Representative Issa told Fox News that Lerner had agreed to testify. But this statement was categorically contradicted by Lerner’s attorney. At the hearing itself, Issa cut the microphones and adjourned the hearing when the committee’s top Democrat, Elijah Cummings, tried to speak. Cummings continued his comments nonetheless. Reportedly, they lasted longer than the hearing itself.
The Committee is now considering whether to hold Lerner in contempt for refusing to testify or to accept Lerner’s offer to provide information without waiving her Fifth Amendment protections. That contempt threat is idle, however, as enforcement of the contempt citation will depend on the Justice Department. Best practice suggests that the Department will not pursue a contempt prosecution against an executive branch official.
Thus ends round two of what we expect to be a long fight.