House just held in contempt of Congress a former Internal Revenue
Service (IRS) official for refusing a couple of Committee hearing
invitations. Lois Lerner was to testify about her role in the agency's
tea party hullabaloo as disclosed last year. Although poor management
was to blame and many Republicans believed otherwise, no evidence would
point for a political conspiracy.
On the other hand, House Democrats viewed Wednesday's voting was just a strategy to incite the GOP base. Maryland's representative, Elijah Cummings, commented that the House Republicans are trying to spend this week on manufacturing scandals for political reasons rather than on passing bipartisan legislation that are far more important for their constituents.
Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment right not to respond to a couple of hearings by the House oversight committee. House Republicans, however, insisted that she waived her constitutional right when she made an opening statement proclaiming her innocence. Thus, the 187 out of the 231 Republican and Democrat legislators voted in favor of holding Lerner in contempt of Congress.
The matter is now in the hands of the US attorney for the District of Columbia, Ronald Machen, and is to bring it before a grand jury. Whether it will be mandatory or discretionary is yet unclear, according to a nonpartisan report by the Congressional Research Service. But Machen said that they have to review the report of the speaker of the House first then will take appropriate actions.
The Justice Department has voted to appoint a special counsel to investigate the IRS although previous requests from its Attorney General Eric Holder have been denied. In the past year, three congressional committees and the Justice Department have been investigating the IRS on its handling of applications for tax-exempt status. So far, the investigation revealed no one outside IRS to have known the targeting.
Contrary to speculations, Cummings reported this week that from the initial investigations revealed no political conspiracy by the IRS officials and the White House. Instead, the witnesses claimed that the agency lacks clear guidance from management on how to handle tea party applications.
But who directed Lois Lerner to target conservative Americans is what Representative Michelle Bachmann, of Minnesota, is interested to find out. Lerner's lawyer, William W. Taylor III, revealed that His client have sat for lengthy interviews with Justice Department investigators without conditions. He further explained that the reason why Lerner wouldn't answer questions before the Oversight Committee as it is only out to malign her in public.
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