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March 27, 2014

House Lawyers Say Panel Can Pursue Lerner Contempt Case

Attorneys for the House of Representatives concluded a congressional committee has legal standing to bring contempt charges against ex-Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner for refusing to testify about the tax agency's scrutiny of nonprofit groups' political activities, reports The Washington Post.

Ms. Lerner, who retired last year as head of the IRS office on nonprofits, has twice invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in refusing to answer questions from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, leading the panel's chairman, Republican Rep. Darrell Issa to seek contempt charges.

The committee's ranking Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings, contended Republicans could not pursue the case because Mr. Issa did not follow constitutional procedure by specifically overruling Ms. Lerner's taking the Fifth or directing her to answer questions. But the House general counsel's office backed the chairman's assertion that the panel satisfied the constitutional requirement by voting that Ms. Lerner had waived her right not to testify by declaring her innocence at a May 2013 hearing.

During a confrontational hearing Wednesday, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen told the committee it would take years to turn over all the emails and other documents that the panel has subpoenaed in its inquiry into alleged IRS targeting of conservative groups, the Los Angeles Times writes. Mr. Issa accused Mr. Koskinen of "slow-rolling" the inquiry.