Republicans on the House Oversight Committee investigating the Internal Revenue Service-Tea Party discrimination scandal are all but threatening contempt charges if top IRS officials don’t stop stonewalling the Committee’s request to hand over former Exempt Organizations director Lois Lerner’s emails.
Current IRS Commissioner John Koskinen has balked at the blanket request, telling the Committee it would take years for the agency to comb through Lerner’s old correspondence and redact sensitive information concerning taxpayers. Besides, he argued Wednesday, the Oversight Committee has all the important stuff already.
“What they want is something that’s going to take years to produce,” he told the panel. “… You may want to have this investigation go on forever. We have provided you all the emails relevant.” Koskinen went on to say he didn’t expect the agency would able to produce all of Lerner’s emails, as well as those of other IRS employees with possible ties to the scandal, before the end of this year (or, in other words, until after the November midterm elections).
Determining whether potential evidence is relevant isn’t part of the IRS commissioner’s job, shot back Congressman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).
“What part of ‘all’ don’t you and the IRS understand?” he asked Koskinen. “We don’t care what you think is irrelevant. … We don’t want the excuses anymore. Prioritize them.”
Through its chief counsel, the House also released a memo Wednesday asserting that Lerner, who has continued to withhold testimony under her controversial invocation of her 5th Amendment protection against self-incrimination, is still in jeopardy of a contempt charge if she does not agree to provide testimony about how the IRS carried out its targeting of conservative nonprofit groups.
Lerner, who offered a statement of innocence to Congress before pleading the 5th, has since maintained that her claim of innocence in no way conflicts with her right to plead the 5th.