(WASHINGTON) — While Congress continues to investigate the cloud of controversy hanging over the Internal Revenue Service, House Oversight and Government Reform committee Chairman Darrell Issa has determined that a top IRS official’s refusal to testify during a hearing Wednesday is invalid.
After questions arose Wednesday surrounding the validity of IRS director of Exempt Organizations Lois Lerner’s assertion of her Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate herself, Issa pledged to look into the matter, recessing the hearing rather than adjourning it in order to maintain his ability to later compel Lerner to testify.
On Thursday, a committee spokesman announced Issa had concluded that when Lerner read a statement aloud and authenticated a document for the record, she waived her right to refuse to testify.
“After consulting with counsel, Chairman Issa has concluded that Ms. Lerner’s Fifth Amendment assertion is no longer valid. She remains under subpoena,” Frederick Hill, communications director for Issa, said. “The committee is looking at recalling her for further testimony.”
With lawmakers heading home for the Memorial Day recess, it’s unlikely Lerner would be hauled back for testimony until at least June 3.
Lerner’s lawyer, William W. Taylor, III, did not have an immediate reaction to Issa’s judgment.
On Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi indicated that Lerner’s assertion of the Fifth Amendment created more questions than answers.
“I don’t know that it’s in the public interest [to invoke the Fifth],” Pelosi, D-Calif., said. “The American people deserve answers. I wish that she would have provided them. I don’t know what her basis is for taking the Fifth, [but] it’s her legal right.”
“Drip, drip, drip,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said. “Every day there’s something new.”
Boehner doubted President Obama’s explanation that he found out about the IRS problem through media reports, but he expressed “full confidence” in the ability of the congressional committees and FBI investigating the IRS “to get to the truth.”
“What is most troubling in this White House is that the lights are on but there doesn’t seem to be anybody at home. The IRS systematically violated the rights of Americans for almost two years,” Boehner said. “Treasury Department knew about this last year, and the White House was made aware of it last month. Yet no one — no one — thought that they should tell the president. Fairly inconceivable to me.”
Pelosi, however, defended the president’s apparent unawareness, excusing him for not knowing of the problems at the IRS in the midst of a presidential campaign.
“The president doesn’t know about everything that is going on in every agency of government,” Pelosi said. “Should Mr. Boehner have known because this is his neighboring district…Cincinnati, where the IRS office is? I don’t think you can hold [Boehner] accountable for what happened in that IRS office, but I think that obviously, the public will make its decision about it.”
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