A U.S. House of Representatives panel voted along party lines on Thursday to hold a former Internal Revenue Service officer in contempt of Congress. The vote comes after Lois Lerner over her role in a 2013 controversy involving IRS targeting of conservative and pro-life groups.
Lerner, former head of the IRS tax-exempt division, twice exercised her right not to testify about the affair before the Republican-controlled House Oversight and Government Reform Committee at public hearings on Capitol Hill.
The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which represents 41 organizations in a federal lawsuit challenging the IRS including pro-life organizations, told LifeNews decision by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to hold former IRS official Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress is “justified.” The ACLJ said so because she failed to cooperate with Congressional investigators to provide information regarding her role in the unlawful targeting of conservative and tea party groups.
“The decision to hold Lois Lerner in contempt comes 11 months to the day since she revealed this unlawful scheme with a question she planted at an ABA meeting,” said Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the ACLJ. “From the very beginning, she has ignored a Congressional subpoena – refused to answer questions on two occasions by pleading the Fifth Amendment. We believe – as many others do – that she waived her constitutional right to remain silent because she invoked it after she publicly proclaimed her innocence. Lerner has misled the American people and Congress from the very start. Contempt is justified and the appropriate sanction in this case.”
The measure now goes before the full House for consideration.
Today’s action comes just one day after the House Committee on Ways and Means voted to send a letter to the Attorney General saying Lerner should be prosecuted for her actions in the unlawful targeting scheme.
The contempt vote comes as the ACLJ has heard from more than 70,000 people in just several days calling on Congress to hold Lerner in contempt.
The ACLJ federal lawsuit, which also names Lois Lerner as a defendant, is progressing. The ACLJ represents 41 organizations in 22 states. Of the 41 groups, 24 organizations received tax-exempt status after lengthy delays, 11 are still pending, 5 withdrew applications because of frustration with the IRS process, and 1 had their file closed by the IRS after refusing to answer the unconstitutional requests for more information.
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Last year, Lerner was called to testify in front of the same Committee where she also invoked her Fifth Amendment rights after making the statement, “I have not done anything wrong. I have not broken any laws, I have not violated any IRS rules or regulations and I have not provided false information to this or any other congressional committee.” The Committee voted and concluded that because Lerner made a statement before pleading the Fifth, she effectively waved her Fifth Amendment rights.
When asked by Chairman Darrell Issa if she believed there wasn’t a smidgen of corruption inside the IRS when it came to the inappropriate targeting of tea party and conservative groups, Lerner answered, “On the advice of my counsel I respectfully exercise my fifth amendment right and decline to answer that question.”
The Committee hearing was quickly dismissed after Issa put contempt charges for Lerner on the table.
“Ladies and gentlemen, seeking the truth is the duty of this committee and I see no point in moving forward,” Issa said. “We’re adjourned, close it down.”