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Issa, Democrats Clash at IRS Hearing After Lerner Pleads Fifth

By    |   Wednesday, 05 March 2014 09:53 AM EST

Former IRS official Lois Lerner's refusal to answer questions at a congressional hearing on the targeting of tea party groups sparked an angry exchange on Wednesday between Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa and committee Democrats.

Lerner headed the IRS division that improperly targeted tea party and other conservative groups for extra scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status from 2010 to 2012. She appeared at a Wednesday hearing by the House Oversight Committee.

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But when Issa asked her questions about her role in the matter, Lerner repeatedly invoked her constitutional right not to incriminate herself.

The fireworks began after a frustrated Issa abruptly adjourned the hearing, prompting an outburst by Maryland Democrat Rep. Elijah Cummings.

"I am a member of the Congress of the United States of America," Cummings yelled as Issa dismissed the meeting and cut of microphones. "I am tired of this.

"We have members over here, each who represent 700,000 people. You cannot just have a one-sided investigation. There is absolutely something wrong with that. And, it's absolutely un-American," Cummings yelled.

"We had a hearing. We are adjourned. I gave you an opportunity to ask a question. You had no questions," Issa, a Republican from California, responded.

"I do have a question," Cummings said.

"I gave you an opportunity to speak," Issa replied, and left the meeting room.

Lerner invoked the Fifth Amendment in response to several questions by Issa about her role in the IRS targeting of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status. The hearing
Wednesday was her second appearance before the committee.

After the hearing, Issa answered questions outside the meeting room. He said Cummings had an opportunity to ask a question during the hearing, but that he instead "went into an opening statement." Issa said opening statements had already been completed. He said he left the hearing because "there was no question pending."

"The fact is, Mr. Cummings came to make a point of his objections to the process we've been going through. He was actually slandering me at the moment that the mikes did go off, by claiming that this had not been a real investigation," Issa said.

"Just because Mr. Cummings would like to have a more convenient truth, doesn't give him the right to make a speech," he added.

Cummings exited the hearing more composed than moments before, and reviewed the extent that Congress had worked to investigate the claims against the IRS.

"We have now interviewed 38 IRS employees. Hundreds of thousands of pages of documents from IRS have been reviewed, $14 million plus and counting in man-hours (have) been expended in addressing the various investigations with regard to the IRS.

"And, still, there has not been any evidence whatsoever that there was political motivation in regard to this targeting, in regard to these efforts," Cummings said.

Issa said the investigation by Congress would continue.

Republicans have been considering holding Lerner in contempt, a move that House Speaker John Boehner backed today.

Boehner said he would wait for a final report of what happened from Issa, but he wants Lerner to testify.

"At some point I believe that she has to testify," Boehner told reporters. "Or she should be held in contempt."

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The fireworks began after House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa adjourned the hearing Wednesday with former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner.
Wednesday, 05 March 2014 09:53 AM
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