The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee announced yesterday that it will hold a vote to decide whether former I.R.S. employee Lois Lerner is in contempt of Congress on Thursday, April 10th.
Lerner has twice been called before Congress to testify about her involvement in the inappropriate targeting of conservative 501(c)(4) groups for extra scrutiny. On both occasions Lerner asserted her 5th amendment right not to testify.
Rep. Issa and other Republicans on the Committee have maintained that Lerner waived her right not to testify when, during her first appearance before the Committee back in 2013, she made a speech proclaiming her innocence before asserting the 5th. The Committee subsequently met (June 2013) and voted that she had in fact waived her right not to testify.
The Committee issued a staff report last month focused on Lerner’s involvement in the scandal and making a detailed case that she had improperly asserted her 5th amendment right not to testify. Democrats led by Rep. Elijah Cummings issued a letter responding to the report with a legal opinion suggesting that Lerner had not been properly notified she could be held in contempt. Rep. Issa responded with his own letter rejecting Cummings conclusion and saying he was behaving as if he were Lerner’s defense attorney.
Since then the House Office of General Counsel weighed in on Issa’s side of the argument. In a 22-page memo dated March 25th, they conclude “it is this Office’s considered opinion that Mr. Rosenberg [Rep. Cummings’ attorney] is wrong in concluding that ‘the requisite legal foundation for a criminal contempt of Congress prosecution [of Ms. Lerner…ha[s] not been met…’.”
In announcing the vote, Rep. Issa, who chairs the Oversight Committee, said “Ms. Lerner’s involvement in wrongdoing and refusal to meet her legal
obligations has left the Committee with no alternative but to consider a
The vote is scheduled to take place at 9 a.m. If the Committee finds Lerner in contempt of Congress the matter would then go to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia for presentation to a grand jury.