POLITICS: PennAve

Oversight panel recommends House hold Lois Lerner in contempt

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Politics,Congress,House of Representatives,Tea Party,IRS,Darrell Issa,PennAve,Sean Lengell,Lois Lerner,House Oversight

A House Oversight and Government Reform Committee report on Tuesday recommended the full House find former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress for her refusal to answers questions about the agency's conservative-targeting scandal.

"Lois Lerner's testimony is critical to the committee's investigation," read the report released Tuesday by the Republican-run panel. "Without her testimony, the full extent of the IRS's targeting of Tea Party applications cannot be known, and the committee will be unable to fully complete its work."

The House Oversight panel will consider a resolution to hold Lerner in contempt on Thursday.

The committee, chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., is investigating Lerner, who headed the Exempt Organizations division of the agency when it controversially targeted conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.

Lerner has refused to answer questions about IRS targeting, citing her Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and avoid self-incrimination.

Issa says she waived her constitutional right to not comment when she made a statement last year denying any wrongdoing, and charges that she is trying to delay the investigation.

Democrats, Lerner's legal staff and some independent legal experts dispute Issa's claim, saying her denial wasn't enough to constitute a legal waiver.

Lerner faces up to a year in jail and fines up to $100,000 if found guilty of contempt of Congress, a criminal misdemeanor.

The committee's senior Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, complained that Issa announced the report's findings to the media before telling the panel.

"It is unfortunate that Chairman Issa leaked news of his contempt vote before he even told his own committee members, but frankly that is how he has conducted this entire investigation — promoting partisanship and leaking information rather than seeking facts and reform," Cummings said.

The Democrat also said Issa refused Lerner's request to delay Thursday's meeting for a week because she is out of town, calling the move "a shame" because "so many of our members — Republicans and Democrats — wanted to hear from her."

"Chairman Issa has demonstrated over and over again that he simply does not want to hear from anyone who disagrees with him or has information that does not fit his political narrative — including witnesses, independent legal experts and even committee members like myself," Cummings said.

Issa and Cummings have had a strained relationship. At the conclusion of a panel hearing last month regarding the IRS investigation, the chairman turned off the Democrat's microphone after a testy exchange. Issa later apologized, which Cummings accepted.

This story was published at 4:31 p.m. and has been updated.

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