Lois Lerner didn’t just take the Fifth. She gave a little speech first saying she had done nothing wrong. That certainly opens her up to some questions, although the extent to which it does is debatable.
Imagine the following sequence of questions:
1) Did you do anything wrong?
2) Do you think that it would be wrong to target conservative groups because of their ideology?
3) Did you target conservative groups because of their ideology?
Given that Lois Lerner gave an opening statement in which she said that she had not done anything wrong, it would be interesting to see where along this group of three questions she decided to take the Fifth.
Would she, having declared that she did nothing wrong, refuse to answer a question asking her whether she had done anything wrong? Refusing to answer a question simply asking her to reaffirm something she already said would not only be legally improper, in my view, it would also look like game playing.
Would she declare that she had done nothing wrong, but refuse to answer questions about whether targeting conservative groups for their political views is wrong? Even though that question does not directly ask anything about what she did? That would probably blunt the force of her declaration that she did nothing wrong.
Or would she declare that she did nothing wrong, and agree that targeting conservative groups is wrong — but refuse to say whether she targeted conservative groups?
I hope that when they bring her back before the committee they ask questions like this.
There are going to be a certain number of questions that are designed for the cameras. Did you target conservative groups? Did President Obama tell you to target conservative groups? Did you kill Grandma and bury her body out behind the woodshed? Congressman will ask her questions like this in order to get her to respond by taking the Fifth, hoping that it will make her look guilty.
But a more targeted group of questions that relate directly to the content of her opening statement would be more advisable in my opinion. At the very least, they should follow up each question they ask concerning her actions with the question: “Would it be wrong to do that?”
Either she will refuse to answer questions about whether obviously wrong actions are wrong — or, having declared she did nothing wrong, she will be required to answer questions about whether she took these actions.
I hope someone on Rep. Issa’s staff sees this post.