Disgraced ex-IRS official will not get immunity in exchange for testimony

When disgraced IRS official Lois Lerner appears before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Wednesday, she will not receive immunity for any testimony she gives, according to Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA):

“Her attorney indicates now that she will testify. We’ve had a back and forth negotiation,” Issa told Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday. “But quite frankly, we believe that evidence that we’ve gathered causes her in her best interest to be summoned to testify.”

The evidence that Issa, who chairs the House Oversight Committee, has obtained are emails showing that Lerner drafted the proposed IRS regulations that would restrict political speech of nonprofit groups that engage in public policy discussions. The regulations are currently being considered by the IRS.

Wallace asked whether the House Oversight Committee offered Lerner immunity in exchange for her testimony. “We did not,” Issa replied, adding later that he believes the disgraced IRS official will answer all the committee’s questions about the powerful tax agencies targeting of conservative groups.

When Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate herself when she appeared before the House Oversight Committee on May 22, 2013. The committee rejected the claim because Lerner gave an opening statement in which she declared her innocence against charges that she may have done something illegal.

Lerner, who was placed on administrative leave after the May 2013 hearing and has since retired from the IRS, previously expressed willingness to cooperate with the committee’s investigation in exchange for immunity.

Issa told Wallace that the committee hopes Lerner will provide some insight into why she targeted conservative groups.

“What we don’t know is why she did it. What we do understand, of course, is this is someone who came from the Federal Election Commission,” Issa said. “She came with a bias towards groups having to disclose

“501(c)(4)s are different in that because they don’t primarily do electioneering, if you will, they don’t have to disclose donors,” he explained. “And that seems to be one of the questions that could lead us to understand why a liberal individual who favored disclosure wanted to make sure that Tea Party groups had to disclose who their donors were.”

The pending IRS regulations would require that tax-exempt organizations that engage in “candidate-related political activity” to disclose donors. The White House has expressed support for the regulations, threatening to veto any attempt to block them.

Issa also took aim at President Barack Obama’s notion that there is “not even a smidgen of corruption” at the IRS.

“[H]e’ll have to define smidgen and corruption for all of us,” said Issa, “because there certainly is real evidence that there was wrongdoing and that wrongdoing was not in Cincinnati but in fact, in Washington, D.C.”

The House Oversight Committee will resume its May 2013 hearing, “The IRS: Targeting Americans for Their Political Beliefs,” on Wednesday, March 5 at 9:30 am. The hearing will be held in  room 2154 of the Rayburn House Office Building and will be streamed online at the committee’s website.

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