Elijah Cummings Flips Out at Darrell Issa in IRS Scandal Hearing
NEW YORK ( MainStreet) Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) clashed with Darrell Issa (R-California) Wednesday during a House hearing about the IRS's scandalous targeting of Conservative groups.
The acrimony followed the decision by former IRS Exempt Organization director Lois Lerner to invoke the Fifth Amendment.
This is the second time Lerner pled the Fifth during a hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. This appearance was a continuation of her testimony from May 22, 2013, when she refused to answer questions about whether the IRS improperly targeted Conservative groups that applied for tax-exempt status during the 2010 and 2012 elections.
Issa, the Committee chair, had announced the previous Sunday, on a Fox News television program, that Lerner had consented to testify March 5. Since he made it a point to publicize this consent, Lerner's refusal to respond to his questions clearly embarrassed him. Some are attributing the problem to the email correspondence between the committee's attorney and Lerner's attorney.
"I think there was some confusion in the email exchanges between Lois Lerner's attorney and the committee and that was what gave Issa the impression that Lerner was going to testify," said Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a Washington D.C. think-tank.
Even so, for Issa to make such a claim prior to the hearing was a major faux pas. This coupled with the shouting by Cummings that Issa denied him the opportunity to ask questions when Issa adjourned the hearing has significantly damaged the credibility of Republicans in this investigation. The media focus of the hearing changed from speculation about what was Lerner hiding to Issa's actions. The accuser is now the accused.
Issa asked Lerner several questions. She refused to respond to each, invoking her Fifth Amendment privilege once again. Among these questions Issa asked:
- What Lerner meant when she said some unidentified person or persons wanted the IRS to fix the problem caused by Citizens United.
- Why she emailed her colleagues warning them that the Tea Party cases were very dangerous and that the Cincinnati office should not have them.
- Why in September 2010 email she wrote that "we need to be cautious so that it is not a per se political project. Why were you were about this being perceived as a political project."
- Why she ordered Tea Party cases to undergo a multi-tiered review.
- Why she wanted the application of an organization headed by Karl Rove - President Bush's former advisor.
- Whether there were a "smidgen" of corruption about this targeting of conservative groups. This was a claim made by President Obama during a television interview.
- Whether it was true that she wanted a one week delay before testifying as stated in emails between her attorney and the committee.
After completing his questioning Issa said: "Seeking the truth is the obligation of this committee. I can see no point in going further. I have no expectation that Ms. Lerner will cooperate with this committee and therefore we stand adjourned."