House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa briefly stopped his panel's proceedings on Monday night as verbal jousting ensued when IRS Commissioner John Koskinen testified.
Issa ordered the clock stopped as Massachusetts Democrat John Tierney began his time by apologizing to Koskinen for the way he was treated by the Republican who preceded him.
The hubbub began as Rep. Mike Turner, an Ohio Republican, wagged his finger at Koskinen, telling him his personal integrity and that of his agency were at risk because he has not contacted the FBI to investigate the loss of critical emails of former IRS official Lois Lerner.
Turner noted that Lerner had invoked the Fifth Amendment before the committee, which indicated crimes might have been committed. That, added to the fact that emails from her and six others involved are said to be irretrievably lost, should have made him suspicious that a crime was committed in his agency, Turner said.
He told Koskinen that if he is a man of integrity, as he claims, he should be suspicious that "maybe someone not of integrity committed a crime in destroying them."
Koskinen said he isn't going to call the FBI because the inspector general is looking into the matter and will issue a report on whether any crime was committed.
With that, Issa gave the floor to Tierney, who addressed Koskinen, saying, "I don't think I've seen a display of this kind of disrespect in all the time I've been here in Congress, and it's unfortunate that anyone should have to be subjected to it."
Issa ordered Tierney to yield, but he refused.
Issa then ordered the clock stopped and said, "I would caution all members not to characterize the intent or the character of your fellow members here on the dais."
Tierney laughed as Koskinen responded from the witness table, "But it's fair game to question the integrity of the witness?"
Issa said House rules allow the integrity of a witness to be questioned during the course of taking evidence, but not the integrity of the members doing the questioning.
Democrat Steve Horsford then asked if Issa had not just violated his own rules by making that statement.
Issa said Horsford had to first state his point of parliamentary inquiry if he wished to ask the question, but Horsford kept repeating the question.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, the committee's ranking Democrat, then interjected, "Just let him ask the question, please."
"I will not," Issa said, giving the floor back to Tierney.
Tierney began again, "I think the understanding is, the rules of the House say that members should conduct themselves in a way that reflect credibility on the House. I think people watching this hearing today can decide whether that's been followed."
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