Former IRS official Lois Lerner should be given immunity from criminal prosecution so that investigators can get to the bottom of the IRS tea party-targeting scandal, Rep. Blake Farenthold says.
Farenthold, a Texas Republican and a member of the House Oversight Committee, told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV
that Lerner's ability to answer questions without fear of reprisal would help end the tidal wave of IRS "stonewalling.''
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This week, the committee has been grilling embattled IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, who says key emails that Lerner and other agency employees wrote were wiped out in a computer crash.
But Rep. Darrell Issa, a California Republican who chairs the committee, accused Koskinen of having "a problem with credibility."
Lerner has invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
"The fact they're stonewalling on every possible avenue speaks volumes,'' Farenthold told host Steve Malzberg on Tuesday.
"I know in our system of government you can't draw any inferences from somebody pleading the Fifth Amendment, but we need to offer Lois Lerner immunity and find out what she really knew.''
Lerner is alleged to be one of the kingpins in the IRS' targeting of tea party groups seeking tax-exempt status.
Farenthold, a member of the House Tea Party Caucus, said he doesn't think a computer crash compromised vital emails that could shed light on the scandal.
"Anybody with a lick of common sense knows that emails just don't disappear like this,'' he said.
While Lerner's attorneys have indicated her willingness to tell what she knows in exchange for immunity, no deal has been hammered out.
"They need to give us some idea of what she's going to say in exchange for immunity, and they're not willing to do that,'' Farenthold explained.
"Now, I would take the immunity offer . . . but I guess you got to be worried about the repercussions from the White House.''
Farenthold also says there may be a surprise witness who will eventually come forward to blow the investigation wide open.
"As frustrated as I am with the Obama administration, I believe that the majority of the American people are good, honest folks and somebody within the IRS, or somebody who knows what's going on, is going to come forward as a whistleblower, it's only the right thing to do,'' he said.
Farenthold said he continues to be frustrated with Attorney General Eric Holder for dragging his feet on helping the House with its IRS probe.
"What do you do when you have an attorney general that's not cooperative?'' he said. "Historically, the Justice Department has been Congress' ally in fighting wrongdoing in government, but under this Justice Department and Eric Holder, rather than being the people's attorney, Eric Holder sees himself as the president's attorney and he'll do anything to defend the president.
"We're kind of in uncharted territory when you don't have a cooperative Justice Department.''
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