House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa said at the opening of the committee's meeting Friday that Lois Lerner waived her Fifth Amendment rights when she testified before the committee in May.
"She did so when she delivered an opening statement," he said, according to Fox News
Lerner is the Internal Revenue Service official at the center of the agency's targeting of conservative and tea party groups applying for non-profit status. She began her testimony before the committee in May by making a statement and then invoking her Fifth Amendment rights.
"I have not done anything wrong. I have not broken any laws," she said in her opening statement
. "I have not violated any IRS rules or regulations, and I have not provided false information to this or any other congressional committee."
Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina concurred with the California Republican's conclusion.
"That's not how the Fifth Amendment works," Gowdy said. "You're not allowed to just say your side of the story . . . She could have sat there and said nothing."
Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said that he wants to hear what Lerner knows about the IRS scandal, but he also wants to be careful to "respect the constitutional rights of every witness who comes before this committee," The Washington Times reports
Lerner's attorney, William Taylor, said he disagrees with the committee's assertion that she waived her rights.
"There was nothing voluntary about her statement," Taylor wrote. "She had informed (the) committee that she would invoke and requested to be excused and (the) committee order to appear and invoke her rights in public."
"It went so far as to serve a subpoena on her to assure that she would be compelled to attend, unlike other witnesses who appeared voluntarily . . . protesting your innocence and invoking the right not to answer questions, which is what she did, is not a waiver."
Issa said that he "considered the matter deliberately," as well as the opinion offered by Lerner's lawyers before making his decision, The Washington Times reports.
The House Oversight committee is schedule to vote on a resolution Friday on whether or not Lerner did in fact waive her rights.
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