The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has voted 21-12 to find former IRS official Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress.
Here are the details, as reported by Fox News:
The contempt measure would next head to the House floor. House Speaker John Boehner predicted earlier this week that unless Lerner agrees to cooperate, the full House will support contempt — from there, the case would likely head to the courts.
“This is not an action I take lightly,” House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said before the vote. But he said lawmakers “need Ms. Lerner’s testimony to complete our oversight work and bring truth to the American people.”
The vote comes a day after the House Ways and Means Committee voted to refer Lerner’s case to the Justice Department for possible criminal prosecution. In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, the committee claimed Lerner may have violated “one or more criminal statutes.” The Department of Justice is not obligated to take up the committee’s request.
Some Democrats have argued that Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment right to not testify:
“Guilty or innocent, Ms. Lerner has a constitutional right to remain silent on this issue,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., said. Further, she said if the committee were truly serious about pursuing this case, they would offer Lerner immunity.
Rep. Trey Gowdy destroyed that claim during the contempt hearing, as Breitbart reported:
Rep. Gowdy asked Democrats on the committee to explain what would constitute a waiving of 5th Amendment rights, if making 17 separate factual assertions, did not.
“Mr. Chairman, I counted 17 separate factual assertions by Miss Lerner…” said Gowdy. “That is a lot of talking for someone who wants to remain silent. That’s a lot talking!”
He continued with a note of exasperation in his voice, “if you honestly believe that somebody can make 17 separate factual assertions and still invoke your right to remain silent, then please tell me what waiver is?! Please tell me what constitutes waiver if 17 factual things does not!?”
It is no surprise that Rep. Elijah Cummings, who is the top Democrat on the committee, is one who claims that the contempt case against Lerner is “weak.” After all, Cummings himself is part of the scandal – his staff sent emails to the IRS to request information about True the Vote, a Tea Party-affiliated voter fraud watchdog group. Earlier this year, Catherine Engelbrecht, the founder and leader of True the Vote and King Street Patriots, testified about the more than 15 instances of harassment she and her family have been subjected to from federal agencies including the IRS, OSHA, and ATF.
Ironically, during that hearing, Engelbrecht was harassed by Cummings.
Naturally, Cummings has denied any wrongdoing, but now House Oversight has proof, as reported by TownHall:
New IRS emails released by the House Oversight Committee show staff working for Democratic Ranking Member Elijah Cummings communicated with the IRS multiple times between 2012 and 2013 about voter fraud prevention group True the Vote.
Information shows the IRS and Cummings’ staff asked for nearly identical information from True the Vote President Catherine Engelbrecht about her organization, indicating coordination and improper sharing of confidential taxpayer information.
Chairman of the House Oversight Committee Darrell Issa, along with five Subcommittee Chairmen are demanding Cummings provide an explanation for the staff inquiries to the IRS about True the Vote and for his denial that his staff ever contacted the IRS about the group.
“Although you have previously denied that your staff made inquiries to the IRS about conservative organization True the Vote that may have led to additional agency scrutiny, communication records between your staff and IRS officials – which you did not disclose to Majority Members or staff – indicates otherwise,” the letter to Cummings states. “As the Committee is scheduled to consider a resolution holding Ms. Lerner, a participant in responding to your communications that you failed to disclose, in contempt of Congress, you have an obligation to fully explain your staff’s undisclosed contacts with the IRS.”
The first contact between the IRS and Cummings’ staffers about True the Vote happened in August 2012. In January 2013, staff asked for more information from the IRS about the group. Former head of tax exempt groups at the IRS Lois Lerner went out of her way to try and get information to Cummings’ office.The information Cummings received was not shared with Majority Members on the Committee.
On January 28, three days after staffers requested more information, Lerner wrote an email to her deputy Holly Paz, who has since been put on administrative leave, asking, “Did we find anything?” Paz responded immediately by saying information had not been found yet, to which Lerner replied, “Thanks, check tomorrow please.”
During the hearing in February, Cummings said the following about Engelbrecht’s claims:
“What she just said is absolutely incorrect and not true.”
As John Hayward of Human Events points out, Cummings’ actions sure look suspicious:
The almost perfect symmetry between Cummings’ public attack on True the Vote, his surreptitious requests for tax information from the IRS, and the way numerous federal agencies subsequently went after Engelbrecht seems significant.
On Wednesday, Issa wrote the following to Cummings:
“Although you have previously denied that your staff made inquiries to the IRS about conservative organization True the Vote that may have led to additional agency scrutiny, records of communication between your staff and IRS officials – which you did not disclose to Majority Members or staff – indicate otherwise. As the Committee is scheduled to consider a resolution holding Ms. Lerner, a participant in responding to your communications that you failed to disclose, in contempt of Congress, you have an obligation to fully explain your staff’s undisclosed contacts with the IRS.”
House Speaker John Boehner said of the decision:
“If Lois Lerner continues to refuse to testify, then the House will hold her in contempt. And we will continue to shine the light on the administration’s abusive actions and use every tool at our disposal to expose the truth and ensure the American people get the answers they deserve.”
What about Cummings? It appears that Lerner isn’t the only one guilty of wrongdoing in this scandal.
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Lily Dane is a staff writer for The Daily Sheeple. Her goal is to help people to “Wake the Flock Up!”