The U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee sat down Lois Lerner, who’s in charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s Exempt Organizations Unit, for questioning early Wednesday, despite forewarning from her attorney that she would invoke the 5th Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination by not answering any questions.
Later in the afternoon, committee chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said he planned to haul her back before the same committee for more questioning. Why? Because Lerner gave a statement to the committee before pleading the 5th — a move Issa believes waived her right to refuse testimony.
“When I asked her her questions from the very beginning, I did so so she could assert her rights prior to any statement,” Issa told POLITICO. “She chose not to do so — so she waived.”
What did Lerner say in her opening remarks?
I have not done anything wrong. I have not broken any laws. I have not violated any IRS rules or regulations, and I have not provided false information to this or any other committee.
Issa said Lerner shouldn’t have attempted to squeeze a declaration of innocence into her testimony if she intended to remain silent on any questions the committee had.
“The precedents are clear that this is not something you can turn on and turn off,” he said. “She made testimony after she was sworn in, asserted her innocence in a number of areas, even answered questions asserting that a document was true … So she gave partial testimony and then tried to revoke that.”
The IRS scandal became public after Lerner admitted on May 10 that the agency had discriminated against conservative nonprofits that had applied for tax-exempt status.