Lois Lerner Pleads the Fifth Again at House Hearing on IRS Scandal

Melanie Arter | March 5, 2014 | 10:05am EST
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IRS official Lois Lerner is sworn in on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 22, 2013, before the House Oversight Committee hearing. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

(CNSNews.com) – Lois Lerner, former director of IRS exempt organizations, invoked her Fifth Amendment rights again Wednesday before a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the IRS targeting American citizens for their political beliefs.

“On the advice of my counsel, I respectfully exercise my Fifth Amendment right and decline to answer that question,” Lerner said in response to a slew of questions by Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) regarding the IRS targeting of tea party and conservative groups.

Issa read a statement that Lerner made on Oct. 19, 2010 that said, “The Supreme Court dealt a huge blow, overturning a 100-year-old precedent that basically corporations couldn’t give directly to political campaigns. And everyone is up in arms because they don’t like it. The Federal Election Commission can’t do anything about it. They want the IRS to fix the problem.”

“What exactly ‘wanted to fix the problem caused by Citizen United,’ what exactly does that mean?” Issa asked Lerner.

“My counsel has advised me that I have not waived my constitutional rights under the Fifth Amendment, and on his advice, I will decline to answer any question on the subject matter of this hearing,” Lerner said.

“So you’re not going to tell us who wanted to fix the problem caused by Citizens United?” Issa asked.

“On the advice of my counsel, I respectfully exercise my Fifth Amendment right and decline to answer that question,” Lerner said in response.

Lois first invoked her Fifth Amendment rights at a May 22, 2013 hearing before refusing to answer questions.

“Ladies and gentlemen, seeking the truth is the obligation of this committee. I can see no point in going further. I have no expectation that Ms. Lerner will cooperate with this committee, and therefore, we stand adjourned,” Issa said.

As Issa adjourned the hearing, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) interrupted the chairman’s statement to protest the hearing.

“Mr. Chairman, I have a procedural question, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, I have a procedural question. Mr. Chairman, you cannot run a committee like this. You just cannot do this. This is—we’re better than that as a country. We’re better than that as a committee. I have asked for a few minutes to ask a procedural …”

Cummings microphone was cut off during his speech, and then turned back on, but he continued.

“I am a ranking member of the committee, and I want to ask a question. What are we hiding? What’s the big deal? May I ask my question? May I state my statement?” Cummings asked.

Issa told the committee that they were free to leave, but he allowed Cummings to ask his question.

“Thank you very much. Mr. Chairman, I have one procedural question, and it goes to trying to help you get the information by the way that you just asked,” Cummings said.

“What is your question?” Issa asked.

“Let me say what I have to say. I’ve listened to you for the last 15 or 20 minutes. Let me say what I have to say, and I have one procedural question,” Cummings said.

Issa informed Lerner that she was free to leave.

“But first I would like to use my time to make some brief points. For the past year, the central Republican accusation in this investigation…” Cummings said as his microphone was cut off again.

Cummings continued off mic, “If you will sit down and allow me to ask the question, I am a member of the Congress of the United States of America. I am tired of this! We have members over here, each who represent 700,000 people. You cannot just have a one-sided investigation. There is absolutely something wrong with that, and it is absolutely un-American.”

Issa reminded Cummings that the hearing was adjourned and left the room, and Cummings continued to speak.

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