May 24, 2013
Lois Lerner, the IRS official who’s answered a lot of questions behind closed doors but refuses to answer when she’s on the hot-seat, is in trouble no matter how you look at it. Right now all eyes are on Ms. Lerner. She’s standing in the middle of the arena and there’s a very long line of people who all want to be first to release the lions.
First in line, of course, are the Tea Party and Conservative groups the IRS was targeting, along with their supporters. After Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment Rights on Wednesday, Co-Founder and National Coordinator for the Tea Party Patriots, Jenny Beth Martin, said, “While we respect Ms. Lerner’s use of the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment, we are disturbed she saw fit to trample over our First Amendment rights by harassing us and many other groups for our views.”
Next in line, approximately 40 percent of American tax-payers. You know, the ones who didn’t vote for Obama, the ones who don’t believe that Obama didn’t know anything about it until he heard it on the news with the rest of America.
Behind them you’ll find all the Republican representatives who want to make a good showing for their constituencies, and behind them you’ll find the Democrats who want to make a good showing for Obama, and they’ll do anything to keep their President safe from scrutiny.
Last but not least, Lois, you’ll have the President himself, ready and willing to throw you under the bus.
Lerner made a serious error on Wednesday when she refused to answer the committee’s questions. Before invoking her rights, she first proclaimed her innocence, causing some to say she immediately waived her Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and opened herself up to a contempt charge.
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) said, “You don’t get to tell your side of the story and then not stand for cross examination,” he said. “She waived her right against self-incrimination, she ought to sit here and answer our questions.”
It’s unclear whether or not Lerner can be held in contempt because she was under investigation, not on trial. However, Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz said Wednesday that he believes she could be held in contempt and go to jail.
Dershowitz was an adviser on O. J. Simpson’s defense team and he says Lerner “should never have been allowed” to make her opening statement.
“You can’t simply make statements about a subject and then plead the Fifth in response to questions about the very same subject,” Dershowitz said. “Once you open the door to an area of inquiry, you have waived your Fifth Amendment right… you’ve waived your self-incrimination right on that subject matter.”
House Oversight Committee Chariman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is considering recalling Lerner and forcing her to testify. “Ms. Lerner may have waived her Fifth Amendment rights by addressing core issues in her opening statement and the authentication afterwards,” Issa said Wednesday. “Although I excused Ms. Lerner subject to a recall, I am looking into the possibility of recalling her and insisting that she answer questions in light of a waiver.”
A post today at Hot Air sums up Lerner’s situation nicely:
“What happens when Issa brings her back and the questions begin? Could be that she’ll cave and start answering, but I assume her lawyer will tell her to take the Fifth again, in which case it’s Issa’s move. He could try to hold her in contempt, which would probably ignite a court battle and would certainly ignite lots of media concern-trolling about the GOP crushing Lerner’s rights as a way to change the subject from the underlying scandal. The court battle would slow down the investigation and might spark a bit of public sympathy for Lerner and the IRS…
Politically, it might even be worth losing the court battle: Litigation will only call more attention to the fact that Lerner doesn’t want to talk for mysterious reasons, which makes the IRS’s actions look that much shadier.
… why not bring her back and make her sit through an hour or so of serially re-asserting her privilege to dozens of questions? Worst-case scenario, the dodginess of the spectacle puts even more pressure on the IRS. Best-case scenario, she’ll decide to answer questions selectively, which will add a bit more information to what the committee knows.”
So Lerner is pretty much stuck between a rock, a hard place, and a stadium full of hungry lions. Only time will tell if she’ll survive or if she’ll become Obama’s scapegoat.