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Lerner Says ‘I Have Not Done Anything Wrong,’ Refuses to Take Questions

IRS HEARING COVERAGE: Official may not have properly asserted Fifth Amendment rights with her statement. More:  Senator: Former IRS Chief is Being Coached

by
Bridget Johnson

Bio

May 22, 2013 - 7:33 am

The IRS official who first confessed the targeting of Tea Party and other groups in a planted question at a bar association event told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee this morning that she’s refusing to answer questions because she’s innocent.

But that may not be the end of the story as Republican committee members seized on her potentially fumbled assertion of the right against self-incrimination.

“I have not done anything wrong, I have not broken any laws,” Lois Lerner, who oversees the IRS’ tax-exempt division, said at this morning’s hearing. “…I have not provided false information to this or any committee.”

“After very careful consideration I have decided to take the advice of counsel,” she said, and refused to answer questions.

Lerner said “some people will assume I have done something wrong; I have not.” She added that invoking the amendment also protects innocent people.

Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) noted she’s giving testimony twice before the committee previously and asked her to reconsider. He asked her to immediately consult with counsel about whether she actually asserted her Fifth Amendment right or if she waived it by giving an opening statement.

“I will not answer any questions or testify about the subject matter of this hearing,” Lerner said after shortly whispering with men sitting behind her.

“She just testified,” Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), a former prosector, said angrily. “You don’t get to tell your side of the story and then not be subject to cross-examination.”

Many in the gallery applauded Gowdy.

“She does have a right, I think, and we have to adhere to that,” ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said.

Before leaving, Lerner declined to answer a few more questions from Issa. The chairman advised the IRS official that she’s subject to recall after the GOP majority seeks specific counsel on whether her Fifth Amendment right was properly waived.

More: 

Senator: Former IRS Chief is Being Coached

Bridget Johnson is a veteran journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She is an NPR contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.

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Top Rated Comments   
Issa should have placed her under oath and then asked her to repeat her opening statement. Do you think she would have risked a possible future perjury charge?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Well, someone's got to say it, and it might as well be me. At some point, we citizens can refuse to pay our federal income taxes. They can't jail us all.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Someone please save the video clips. Then when we get close to election day 2014 an ad can be created that alternates between Obama declaring that his would be the most transparent administration in history and her pleading the Fifth.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (61)
All Comments   (61)
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Lerner took the oath to "tell the truth, the whole truth..." before taking the 5th. On the face of it, that seems to violate the oath just taken. What's up with that?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Cant wait till these folks control my healthcare, as a Conservative and Tea Party member.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The obvious assumption is that the woman has something to hide or, more likely, someone to protect...
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Or she is stalling for time while people are burning the files....
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You can't just blab about whatever you wish, plead the Fifth, and then answer questions. There are clear legal precedents that say that such actions imply one has waived their Fifth Amendment rights.

Pleading the Fifth can be used to protect oneself from over-zealous questioning when one is innocent. I have a few attorney friends and a few law officer friends. They suggest: guilty or innocent, if questioned about anything more than jaywalking, you should ask for an attorney, plead the Fifth and then say nothing more except "Am I free to go?" Don't ask for water or to go to the toilet or for your heart pills. They can get an EMT to you quickly. Keep quiet. Don't nod or shake your head. Don't make gestures. There are so many precedents on the books of people inadvertently waiving their Fifth Amendment rights that it is dangerous to do anything but sit still and silent. If they (law enforcement) are really interested in you, as in you are a suspect, they might keep you a couple of days while you arrange for an attorney. If you are a suspect for a crime worth holding you, you'll need an attorney anyway. If they don't really have anything or were just trolling for information, they'll let you go. I don't really think this is how the Fifth Amendment should be interpreted, but that is how current legal precedent sees it.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
but, if a person truly has nothing to hide, then why refuse to answer questions - even any "over-zealous" ones?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Granted, I think she is either guilty or stalling for time while guilty parties can destroy evidence, wait for the storm to go over, and concoct excuses that protect themselves. While some rookie cop might get "over-zealous" and create an expensive and annoying situation for an innocent person by badgering someone with an incessant series of leading questions until out of fatigue and confusion he says something incriminating—it has happened—it is very unlikely in proceedings of the US Legislature that such tactics could be used. So, despite her protestations of innocence, she is almost certainly either guilty herself of protecting others who are guilty. Though she pleaded the Fifth, she also made statements and answered questions—which by common legal precedent is a form of waiving one's right to not self-incriminate. To continue to refuse to answer questions after waiving her rights is almost certainly a form of "contempt of Congress" and is punishable.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
" She added that invoking the amendment also protects innocent people."

Can she really take the fifth on behalf of other people?

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Does anyone else see the contradiction here. Ms. Lerner says: "I have not broken any laws", at the same time as invoking her 5th amendment rights to not incriminate herself. If she broke no laws, truthful testimony cannot incriminate her. If her truthful testimony would incriminate her, then she has broken laws.

The only way that this makes any kind of sense is that if she testified, she would be breaking the law. The only way she would do that is if she intended to lie under oath. The 5th amendment does not cover this eventuality.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
An over-zealous interrogator, who is more interested in a predetermined outcome than in finding the truth, can ask manipulative and confusing questions that can lead the innocent to confess guilt. An innocent party can plead the Fifth to protect against such questioning. When one pleads the Fifth, you must not say anything, except through the mouth of legal counsel, making all things said as hearsay and inadmissible as direct evidence. You can't speak, then refuse certain questions and answer others.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I'm still confused. It just seems silly to refuse to cooperate if you've nothing to hide. Granted, if you're being badgered by some asshat lawyer, I would imagine you would be within your rights to clam up and demand an attorney.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Under normal circumstances, full cooperation is best. If however, while answering questions, questions arise that seem entrapping, that imply guilt or seem out of place, one should assume that the one asking is treating you as a suspect. He may be assuming you are guilty and is seeking to get proof or a confession to establish his assumption. Innocent people have gone to prison before. Such out of place questions may be possible in the local precinct squad room, but they are unlikely in a congressional committee room. Pleading the Fifth to Congress is a whole different game. It yells crime, dirty politics and crime.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You don't have to actually be guilty of a crime for your testimony to be self-incriminating.

To quote Wikipedia (since Black's Law Dictionary is not freely available): o "plead the Fifth" is to refuse to answer any question because "the implications of the question, in the setting in which it is asked" leads a claimant to possess a "reasonable cause to apprehend danger from a direct answer", believing that "a responsive answer to the question or an explanation of why it cannot be answered might be dangerous because injurious disclosure could result."

So, you just need to believe that answering might be dangerous. As Vince Foster knows, crossing certain people can result in lead poisoning of the 9mm variety.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
A leading question that can't be directly answered would be like: "When you were speeding, did you know you were above the speed limit?" or "Did you run the red light because you were late for work or because you didn't see it?"
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Simply answer "but I wasn't speeding" or "but I did not run the red light."

I don't think you're going to need to invoke your 5th Amendment rights in traffic court, anyway...
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You're assuming that an officer who asks such things puts them in a clear straightforward manner. Most officers are honest, good people. An unscrupulous officer might ask a series of questions that are easily answered and then throw in some rogue question in hopes of trapping you with an unintended admission to a violation. It has happened. A common question to get people to self-incriminate is "How fast do you think you were going?" While you don't normally need to plead the Fifth in traffic court, the protection still applies and you needn't answer such questions. Personally, I try to not only be honest, but above reproach. In my state I have a Concealed carry permit for a pistol. 95% of law enforcement here know that I have had to have extensive background checks and have taken classes before getting the license and am a model citizen. The other 5%—plus a few public prosecutors—think I'm some crazed vigilante with an itchy trigger finger. It's the 5% that have me studying the law and keeping a lawyer on speed dial. Hopefully the concealed carry business is just some quirky side "hobby" that never amounts to anything—but one misstep can lead to someone being seriously hurt or dead and prison time for me. Even after pleading the Fifth and requesting a lawyer, there are ways to clear up most misunderstandings in a few days if one is innocent or justified in their actions.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I still think that team Obama deliberately rolled out IRS scandal separated from Obama by 3 levels of department heads to divert attention from Benghazi scandal where Obama was the only guy who could issue orders to US military.

In Benghazi scandal Obama either ordered stand-down and thus killed US ambassador, or allowed other people to give illegal orders to US military breaking chain of command.

But those underlings from IRS were promised easy retiring with non-consequential slaps on the wrist as the worst case.

Instead, now they are facing jail big time. They might start naming names.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
She is forcing more intense investigation upon her underlings and overseers. They are not all professional liars like her. Let the truth come out. It will not come from her, ever.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Bridget Johnson, I sooooooo adore you, pretty lady. Keep up the great work you do.

Can you imagine a world where we are denied a kidney because we are 'right wingers' or 'tea partiers'?

These nefarious fu*kwits need to be taken to task. Enough already. Time for a thorough shakedown.

Enslaved enough already!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The IRS is a massive overlord. Using the IRS to control healthcare? You've got to be effing kidding me? The IRS are the strong arm of the MAFIA that is the government and banksters.

Please forgive me if I don't want to bend over and cough...just yet.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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