Lois Lerner guilty of lying and cover-up

Jul 3, 2013 by

Embattled IRS official Lois Lerner will not testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee unless she’s given immunity from prosecution, her lawyer told POLITICO Tuesday.

“They can obtain her testimony tomorrow by doing it the easy way … immunity,” William W. Taylor III said in a phone interview. “That’s the way to resolve all of this.”

The comments reflect the hard-line approach Lerner, the former head of the IRS division that scrutinized conservative groups, and her legal team are taking in defending her role in the agency’s scandal.

(PHOTOS: 10 slams on the IRS)

Taylor, a founding partner of Zuckerman Spaeder LLP, is even shrugging off the possibility that the full House might vote to hold Lerner in contempt.

“None of this matters,” he said. “I mean, nobody likes to be held in contempt of Congress, of course, but the real question is one that we’re fairly confident about, and I don’t think any district judge in the country would hold that she waived.”

The oversight panel voted along party lines last week that Lerner waived her Fifth Amendment rights at a May 22 hearing when she boldly declared her innocence in the IRS scandal and said she violated no laws — then invoked her constitutional protections to ward off self-incriminating questions from lawmakers.

Republicans immediately argued that Lerner forfeited her Fifth Amendment right by speaking and they should be allowed to question her opening statement.

(PHOTOS: Fifth Amendment use on the Hill)

Legal experts disagree about whether she actually did.

But in the eyes of the committee, Lerner — who was placed on administrative leave after refusing the new IRS leader’s request to resign — is obligated to now answer questions related to her earlier statement.

“The committee is entitled to Ms. Lerner’s full and truthful testimony without further conditions,” said panel spokesman Frederick Hill in a statement to POLITICO. “If, however, Ms. Lerner’s attorney is interested in discussing limited immunity, the committee will listen.”

Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio), a senior oversight Republican helping oversee the IRS investigation, said the panel is still hopeful she’ll come to the committee on her own free will, arguing that questions of immunity and contempt are “down the road.”

(PHOTOS: 8 key players in IRS scandal story)

“We hope she comes in and gives us the truth and answers questions,” Jordan said in a brief phone interview Tuesday. “If that doesn’t happen, then you cross the next bridge. … If she says, ‘No, I’m going to come in and assert my Fifth Amendment rights again and not going to speak,’ then you think about what the other options are.”

Oversight Republicans have not yet decided when or how to recall Lerner, but if she refuses to answer questions on her proclamation of innocence, they say she could face contempt charges.

Taylor, however, said he is not afraid of that threat and is willing to take the issue to federal court if necessary.

(WATCH: Lois Lerner pleads the fifth)

If Lerner is held in contempt, Taylor notes that a federal judge will have the final say about whether she waived her constitutional protection. That’s because criminal contempt charges go to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia for potential prosecution.

The Oversight committee, chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), could initiate civil proceedings against Lerner on its own initiative.

But such an option would delay Lerner’s testimony for months, if not longer, lessening her value to the panel’s IRS probe.

Even if Lerner is found in the wrong, she’ll simply testify and it won’t be a huge deal, Taylor says.

“If the court finds that she didn’t waive, then it’s over, and if the court finds that she did and orders her to testify, then she goes to testify,” Taylor said, later, adding that there is “no danger under any circumstances of her going to jail.”

via Lois Lerner’s price for testimony: Immunity – Rachael Bade and John Bresnahan – POLITICO.com.

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