Republicans: IRS Official Waived 'Right to Be Silent'

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House lawmakers voted to bring IRS official Lois Lerner back, saying she violated her right to remain silent about the agency's targeting of conservative groups over their tax exemption status.

Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee investigating the scandal say they're concerned about violating Lerner's Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate herself.

"I think all of us, on both sides of the aisle, want to hear what Miss Lerner has to say, and what information she may want to bring; we all want to do our job and get on with the investigation that underlies all of this," Rep. John Tierney, D-Mass., said.

"But I think we all hopefully are just as concerned about making sure that this committee upholds the Constitution," he said.

But Republicans claim she waived that right when she declared her innocence in a hearing in May, and that the biggest issue facing the committee shouldn't be obscured.

"We are not here with regard to Lois Lerner," Rep. Patrick Meehan, R-Penn., said. "We are here because there were American citizens who were affected by the agency that she oversaw who used their authority in the IRS to what we believe to be an oppressive fashion against what could be their consitutional rights and potentially in a criminal fashion."

National polls show three out of four Americans believe the IRS should be investigated for targeting political groups, especially after the agency admitted it went after religious groups and the Tea Party under Lerner's watch.

"In fact she may have been a bad person for a few decades now," Sen. Rand Paul said.

At a recent event held by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Paul pointed out Lerner has a long history of targeting conservatives as a bureaucrat.

"Turns out she was in the FEC ten years ago telling a Republican candidate that if he would just renounce the idea of running for office, he would promise never to run for office again, she would drop the charges," Paul said. "He spent $100,000 defending himself."

Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee may be able to provide some protection for Lerner and other government officials. But the widespread IRS harassment of citizens for their political views is bound to be a hot subject in many more hearings on Capitol Hill.

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John Waage

John Waage

CBN News Sr. Editor

John Waage has covered politics and analyzed elections for CBN News since 1980, including primaries, conventions, and general elections. 

He also analyzes the convulsive politics of the Middle East.