The House Ways and Means Committee voted Wednesday to seek criminal charges against former IRS official Lois Lerner, saying it believes she abused her authority in ordering conservative groups to be subject to extra IRS scrutiny, misled investigators and exposed private taxpayer information.
Because the decision whether to charge Lerner now rests with Eric Holder’s Justice Department, House Speaker John Boehner stressed that Republicans would not back down. “As I’ve said, if Lois Lerner continues to refuse to testify, then the House will hold her in contempt. And we will continue to shine the light on the administration’s abusive actions and use every tool at our disposal to expose the truth and ensure the American people get the answers they deserve,” Boehner said.
Holder has a history of ignoring and evading congressional Republicans’ investigations. When he himself was under investigation for the “Fast and Furious” case, the probe was shut down by an order from President Obama.
Holder was found in contempt of Congress by a 2012 House vote, still a sore spot with him as evidenced by a heated argument he had with Rep. Louie Gohmert just the other day. When Gohmert pressed Holder to comply with Congress and release documents that had been requested multiple times, Gohmert added, “I realize that contempt is not a big deal to our attorney general, but it is important that we have proper oversight.”
Holder fumed and pointed his finger at the Texas representative, saying, “You don’t want to go there, buddy. You don’t want to go there, OK?”
Some Republicans are anticipating that Holder will follow this Administration’s pattern and not press charges against Lerner, so the word has gone out that Ways and Means members are considering the possibility of using Congress’ “inherent contempt” authority and actually arresting Lerner and placing her in jail until January 2015, when a new Congress is seated. At that point, a new subpoena could be issued for her testimony, and she could be rearrested if necessary.
The Administration, and not just Lerner, is covering up yet again in the IRS scandal, and the conspiracy is unraveling bit by bit. Congressman Darrell Issa, chairman of the Oversight Committee that has also been investigating the IRS scandal, on Wednesday accused ranking committee Democrat Elijah Cummings of colluding with the IRS in targeting the conservative nonprofit group True the Vote, whose founder, Catherine Engelbrecht, said she received several intimidating letters from Cummings in 2012, as well as visits from the IRS and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Explosives.
In a letter co-signed by his five subcommittee chairmen, Issa said evidence uncovered during investigation suggested that Cummings may have contacted the IRS to request information about True the Vote. Memos show that one of Lerner’s deputies sent the information to Cummings’ office.
Issa’s letter stated that Cummings had previously denied that his staff had any contacts with the IRS regarding True the Vote, but that “undisclosed” communications records showed otherwise. He further warned Cummings that because the Oversight Committee will also be holding a vote this week on whether to hold Lerner in contempt, Cummings was obligated to release all records of his office’s contacts with the IRS.
Cummings has been a thorn in Issa’s side throughout the IRS scandal, repeatedly trying to press Issa to shut down the investigation. Issa’s new allegations may suggest a reason why.
The IRS scandal is deeply dangerous to the Obama Administration. One of the impeachment charges against President Nixon was the accusation that he misused his authority and ordered the IRS to target his political enemies. If evidence could be uncovered that President Obama had done the same, there would be little Democrats could do to stop impeachment charges, and actually blocking impeachment proceedings would be a tacit admission that the Democrat Party is all for breaking the law. Going into an election, such developments would not bode well for Democrats.
So far, Lois Lerner is the biggest fish caught in the investigation, and she seems willing to play the martyr. Some people have suggested that she should be given immunity to secure her testimony against higher ups.
That’s the last thing that should happen. Lerner should spend time cooling her heels in a women’s prison, and if Issa can make charges stick, Cummings should get an iron-bar lounge of his own. Waterboarding the pair of them would not offend me.
This president has gotten away with breaking too many laws, too many oaths. It’s time to take him down, and if that means sending his henchmen to prison one by one to get to him, so be it.