Patterico's Pontifications


What Congress Should Ask Lois Lerner

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 6:41 am

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.

56 Responses to “What Congress Should Ask Lois Lerner”

  1. “Maj. Nidal Hasan fired his attorneys and will represent himself in his upcoming court martial, which starts June 5.”

    Let the pro se follies begin!

    mojo (8096f2)

  2. I agree with your advice and hopefullybsomeone on Issa’s staff will read this. Ialso hope they get a directory of IRS management and ask Lerner about every name.

    DRJ (a83b8b)

  3. She made a big deal of telling her pathetic life story. Bouncing around from one political hatchet job to the next. Picking up big bonus checks along the way.

    ALL OF IT ALREADY ON THE TABLE> She didn’t plead the 5th until after.

    papertiger (c2d6da)

  4. Organizations corrupt from the top down, not from the bottom up. “I did nothing wrong” and I didn’t know” are no excuse. It is her job to know and to take appropriate action. The same applies to Eric Holder. As for POTUS, I can just hear Ygritte saying, “You know nothing Mr. President”

    Bar Sinister (b48c12)

  5. I would ask her if she learned anything from her time at the FEC when she targeted the Christian Coalition, and which practices from that she carried over at the IRS.

    JD (b63a52)

  6. Couldn’t congress immunize her and then force her to testify?
    I’m not a lawyer, but I seem to remember that that is the way around her taking the 5th, particularly if you’re more interested in whole story than just her individual culpability.

    Doug Edwards (b7827a)

  7. Patterico, you are F’ing brilliant, and reading some of your posts, such as this one, makes me wish I went to law school 25 years ago.

    David Pittelli (7ad332)

  8. They’ll shut that down a few Allahu Akbar‘s in. In Nissan’s case, not Lerner’s.

    SarahW (b0e533)

  9. That’s the right way, Mr. Edwards. It’s called cutting to the chase. But Issa will need either some Democrats from the committee aboard or Holder. Likely?

    nk (875f57)

  10. All very good questions, albeit sophomoric, but let’s not be so cocooned and naive in our own respects that we fail to realize in the greater scheme of things that none of this truly matters. At least not politically.

    The public at large already has been dumbed down to Idiocracy. They don’t care about the IRS. They don’t know about this scandal. They wouldn’t know Lois Lerner from Lois Lane. And if by some miracle the magnitude of this Orwellian train wreck filtered out to them either they wouldn’t comprehend it or they’d quickly forget. George Zimmerman, anyone? The Gulf Oil spill? Newtown?

    The problem with devolving into a de facto banana republic is that once stuck you can’t extricate yourself. Stupid won. And you can’t fight stupid.

    William Scalia (89a442)

  11. I like it!

    jb (169a0b)

  12. Why not call Rep. Issa’s office, say you’re a prosecutor with a lot of trial experience, and you have 3 simple questions that need to be asked of Lerner. Failing that, you have 1 simple question that needs to be asked repeatedly. Ask Issa’s assistant/s to bring a short, 1-para. description of your plan to his attention.

    And if not his attention, to the attention of other committee members.

    Former Conservative (6df5b1)

  13. The committee needs to remain focused on fact-finding. Moving all or part(s) of the investigation to DOJ prosecutors doesn’t hurt the administration it benefits them by allowing everyone to lawyer up and clam up. Congress needs to keep this investigation in house.

    Witnesses who refuse to testify should be held in contempt and held to account under the impeachment power of Congress. Whether Congress ultimately chooses to impeach these contemptible and corrupt officials or not, the power to impeach is the better approach. Congress has had to remind 17(?) judges and presidents in the past. It’s time to remind other government officials they are subject to the same accountability.

    crazy (d60cb0)

  14. Wrong is a very loose concept to these people.

    Amphipolis (d3e04f)

  15. Shorter Lois Lame;

    “I haven’t committed any crime, but I can’t answer any questions because I would incriminate myself regarding the criminal activity I engaged in that I did not engage in.”

    Elephant Stone (6a6f37)

  16. I wish Patterico was chairmen of the committee.

    mg (31009b)

  17. Issa is smart but not a lawyer. Gowdy is a former prosecutor and very sharp. Issa should yield to Gowdy and let him carry the ball.

    Chairman Issa clearly did not know what to do, resorted to neither option, and ended up with the worst of both worlds: Lerner got her self-serving statement out and then was not pounded by exacting, factual questions. Fortunately, South Carolina Republican Trey Gowdy, an excellent prosecutor in his former life, interrupted the proceedings to explain exactly what Lerner was trying to pull and why it was a willful perversion of the truth-seeking process. (And that made the loop, too.)

    From Andy McCarthy another excellent prosecutor.

    Issa has e-mails from the IG to the administration showing the report was ready well before the election. He might be the one to get immunity. He is in trouble.

    Mike K (dc6ffe)

  18. Here is the IG’s problem.

    Inspector General J. Russell George told Issa’s panel he withheld the information because he feared lawmakers would leak it to the public.
    Sign Up for the Politics Digest newsletter!

    “When information is conveyed to the Hill, it is not aways retained by the Hill,” George testified Wednesday.

    The stalling tactics were displayed in writing during the hearing Wednesday.

    “Field work on this audit is still ongoing,” was the Sept. 24 response from the inspector general, when oversight committee staff requested a briefing.

    Mike K (dc6ffe)

  19. Here is the IG’s problem.

    Inspector General J. Russell George told Issa’s panel he withheld the information because he feared lawmakers would leak it to the public.

    “When information is conveyed to the Hill, it is not always retained by the Hill,” George testified Wednesday.

    The stalling tactics were displayed in writing during the hearing Wednesday.

    “Field work on this audit is still ongoing,” was the Sept. 24 response from the inspector general, when oversight committee staff requested a briefing.

    Mike K (dc6ffe)

  20. “I’d like to voluntarily state, under oath and for the record, that everything I told the police when I was arrested was true and accurate, even though I had not been given a Miranda warning and an opportunity to speak with my attorney. Now that I have had council, I would like to assert my Miranda rights. You may not use my prior statement against me.”

    Blue Ox (bf4380)

  21. How about:

    “When ACORN disintegrated in 2010, due to this Congress cutting off their funds, many local chapters applied to your group for 501(4)(c) status. What special scrutiny did these offshoots of a corrupt political organization get? If this was different than the TEA Party groups, why?”

    Kevin M (bf8ad7)

  22. But I see your point.

    Kevin M (bf8ad7)

  23. Lois Lerner?

    I think congress should punt on this one

    happyfeet (c60db2)

  24. Nobody cares about Lois Lerner, including Chairman Issa. The only thing they care about is what she knows that can be used to go after higher-ups. If the lovely Mrs Lerner is the only one to go to jail due to this, the Democrats will very happily call that a win: an underling, thrown under the bus, doing time, while President Obama and all of his actually important people get off scot free.

    Our real goal is simple: do anything we can to weaken President Obama and the Democrats, to make their power to convert liberalism into government policy as limited as possible. While I’d absolutely cheer President Obama being removed from office — for one thing, if Joe Biden became President, it would exclude Hillary Clinton from running in 2016 — I’d see that as highly improbable. The next best thing is to politically emasculate him, and that we might be able to accomplish.

    The realistic Dana (3e4784)

  25. I see what you did there, happyfeet.

    nk (875f57)

  26. “The next best thing is to politically emasculate him, and that we might be able to accomplish.”

    I’d love to believe that Dana but I don’t. The media acts like an abused wife to obama’s abuser husband. No matter what he does to we the people, no matter how many Americans die in Bengazi or Boston, regardless of what the IRS does to anyone on the right or any department does to the AP they will all sooner or later circle the wagons around “the one”.

    Take a look at Perry’s blog. All this corruption, incompetence, lies, dead Americans and all Perry can bitch about is the same old crap about so-in-so not paying what Perry deems to be “their fair share”. They are all extreme partisans unable or unwilling to see through the lies, thuggery and deciet to the truth. They elected a ganster and a liar. And they will live with it and make us live with it too.

    Hoagie (3259ab)

  27. I expect that Ms Lerner has been told to keep her mouth shut, take the punishment and “she’ll be taken care of.” She does a year or so in jail and then she gets a no-show job for life from some Democrat donor. SOP.

    Kevin M (bf8ad7)

  28. Barry O is The Gangsta President.

    Elephant Stone (6a6f37)

  29. And none of these things are obamas fault nor responsability. Clint Eastwood’s empty chair lives!

    Hoagie (3259ab)

  30. As jd noted in Comment #5, the FEC under Lerner asked almost the identical outrageous questions about religious groups and prayers.

    I wish someone would pull that thread. After all, even if her 5th plead stands up, it should only cover her IRS stint.

    I also wish someone could explain how she can plead the 5th and still keep her post.

    jim2 (604c42)

  31. “I also wish someone could explain how she can plead the 5th and still keep her post.”

    I’ll take a stab to answer that jim2. When your boss is a corrupt Chicago gangster you will always have a post somewhere.

    Hoagie (3259ab)

  32. I’m reading Patterico’s twitter feed which is on the right hand side of the page. He’s attempting to smoke out Ted Rall from his Aunt’s basement, but Teddy Boy is too afraid to come out and play, which is kind of hilarious considering that Teddy is always so in-your-face with his cartoons.

    Looks like Ted is pulling a Lois Lerner by making assertions, then chickening out of cross-examination.
    We know Lois took the fifth, but it may be that Ted Rall has simply drank a fifth.

    Elephant Stone (6a6f37)

  33. I expect that Ms Lerner has been told to keep her mouth shut, take the punishment and “she’ll be taken care of.” She does a year or so in jail and then she gets a no-show job for life from some Democrat donor. SOP.

    Does anyone wonder what ever became of Susan McDougal? I always assumed that she had been give the same marching orders with respect to taking care of Bill Clinton. According to Wikipedia, she curiously seems to be nicely enmeshed in the Arkansas civic world:

    I guess that’s what ol’ Lois has coming if she plays ball — she can be the director of Multicultural Sustainability Diversity at the University of Chicago.

    JVW (23867e)

  34. Perhaps the House Cmte on Appropriations needs to Blue Pencil the IRS out of Treasury’s funding bill?

    askeptic (b8ab92)

  35. Perhaps the House Cmte on Appropriations needs to Blue Pencil the IRS out of Treasury’s funding bill?

    A threatened 10% reduction in staff would get you some whistle-blowers I think.

    Kevin M (bf8ad7)

  36. R.I.P. former SWAT actor, Steve Forrest, age 87 (younger brother of the incredibly underappreciated Dana Andrews)

    Elephant Stone (6a6f37)

  37. Elephant Stone,

    After I asked him substantive questions (again) he shut right up.

    All he has is sophistry. He is clearly not willing to defend his position.

    Patterico (502d6b)

  38. Apparently, there is no way that these applications were delayed past the statutory limit (270 days) without repeated automatic notices going up the chain of command. The system is designed to prevent this kind of thing, and would take significant intervention (or at least passive acquiescence) from the top to thwart.

    Kevin M (bf8ad7)

  39. All [Ted Rall] has is sophistry. He is clearly not willing to defend his position.

    It’s the same with David Horsey, another lunatic lefty who draws purile cartoons for the LA Dog Trainer, annotates them with a few words, and then pretends to be some deep thinking with Important Things to Say. Things have gone downhill in the intellectual world every since the left decided that provocation is the same as profundity.

    JVW (23867e)

  40. With Ted Rall, David Horsey, et al…that’s the left wing way—they’re always driving down a one-way street.

    Speaking of one-way streets, the news is breaking that outgoing Mayor Tony Villar Antonio Villaraigosa not only is leaving la ciudad de los angeles broke, but he is personally broke.
    And get this—he’s out looking for a post-Mayoral job, including the (pun intended) money quote that he’s “interested in working on Wall Street.”

    Yeah right, does he know that his objective would be to try to make money on Wall Street ?

    Elephant Stone (6a6f37)

  41. Speaking of one-way streets, the news is breaking that outgoing Mayor Tony Villar Antonio Villaraigosa not only is leaving la ciudad de los angeles broke, but he is personally broke.

    Well, when you ditch your wife for some young journalist honey you generally end up with an expensive divorce. I thought it was kind of telling when he was interviewed the other day and asked what plans he had made for living accommodations once he leaves the mayor’s mansion at the end of June, and he said that he was still looking into options. Didn’t sound like someone who had any clue as to what the future holds.

    It’s weird. I thought he had his heart set on an appointment with the Obama Administration, but considering how a cabinet secretary “only” makes $200k per year, I guess he may think he needs to make a larger pile of cash in order to support his lifestyle during future runs for office. Other than that he must just be waiting either for Jerry Brown or Dianne Feinstein to die in office so that he can try to slither into their open seat. I can’t imagine he has the patience to wait until 2018 when both seats next come up.

    And wouldn’t it be a grand irony that the mayor leaves the city he has run for the past eight years because he can’t find gainful employment it in? But liberals don’t do that sort of irony, do they?

    JVW (23867e)

  42. Best of the Web, May 22, 2013: Why Did Lois Lerner Take the Fifth? Perhaps to protect herself from Obama.

    ….The Fifth Amendment protects against more than just criminal convictions. Slochower struck down a provision of the New York City Charter that provided: “Whenever an employee of the City utilizes the privilege against self-incrimination to avoid answering a question relating to his official conduct, his term or tenure of office or employment shall terminate and such office or employment shall be vacant, and he shall not be eligible to election or appointment to any office or employment under the city or any agency.”

    Marshall writes that he “was chatting with people yesterday” who said civil service rules may make it “extremely difficult or even impossible” to fire Lerner. Doing so because she exercised her rights under the Fifth Amendment would be unconstitutional.

    Now, who were these “people” with whom Marshall was “chatting” yesterday? Might they have had an interest in the case? The Weekly Standard takes note of a tweet from NPR’s Ari Shapiro at 3:25 ET yesterday afternoon: “Spotted: @joshtpm @CapehartJ @ezraklein & other lefty columnists headed into the West Wing as a group. POTUS coffee? Carney meeting? Anyone?”

    Those Twitter IDs belong, respectively, to Marshall, Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post and Journolist founder Ezra Klein, also of the Post. Marshall’s post calling for Lerner’s defenestration appeared at 10:15 this morning. Exactly half an hour earlier, Klein had a post along similar lines: “Yes, Heads Should Roll at the IRS.” Capehart is busy with another topic, “Gay Inclusion.” But the similarity between Marshall’s and Klein’s posts suggests that they may be acting in the capacity of unofficial White House spokesmen.

    The White House seems to have an inkling it can’t fire Lerner: Klein as well as Marshall emphasized the stringency of civil-service rules. But encouraging the public to draw adverse conclusions from her assertion of her rights under the Fifth Amendment would have a similar effect of turning her into a scapegoat.

    The American people have a right to know both how deep and how high the corruption of our government runs. The White House has an interest in minimizing the scandal, and surely that is Obama’s objective if he is trying to throw Lerner under the bus. Let’s reserve judgment on her and make sure not to let off the hook the man whose re-election the IRS’s abuse of power helped to advance.

    What is he saying? Taking the Fifth prevented her from being fired?

    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)

  43. Comment by Bar Sinister (b48c12) — 5/23/2013 @ 7:20 am

    Organizations corrupt from the top down, not from the bottom up.

    No, I think it’s more often the opposite. It’s not like Michael Dukakis said in 1988..

    There was lots going wrong during the Reagan Administration, in places, but it didn’t stem from Reagan.

    Now the question here is motive. I think the motive is actually stronger for somebody at a lower level in politics.

    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)

  44. Best of the Web May 23, 2013. Who’ll Frame the President? Obama is not a Nixon, says a Crook.

    (the headline is a pun)

    ….A reader sent this to us as an “Out on a Limb” submission. Christina Lamb, whose Twitter bio describes her as an “author, foreign correspondent, long time follower of Afghanistan and Pakistan,” had the same idea, only without irony. She tweeted yesterday (quoting verbatim): “are we not jumping to conclusions calling beheading an islamist terrorist attack & not violent madmen using name of islam?”

    Say what you will about Twitter, it has a way of forcing people to reduce complex ideas to their essence. The proximity and brevity of Lamb’s two formulations–an “Islamic terrorist attack” and “violent madmen” killing in the name of Islam–make obvious what a lengthy exegesis might obscure: that they denote exactly the same thing.

    As a matter of pure logic, her statement is the equivalent of asking “Are we not jumping to conclusions by assuming A instead of A?”

    Yet rhetorically and emotionally there is a world of difference between the formulations. Whereas “Islamic terrorist attack” puts the focus on a systematic threat, “violent madmen” puts it on the idiosyncrasies of the particular perpetrators. The former tends to induce vigilance, the latter resignation. It’s what psychologists call a “framing effect.”

    Similarly, the continuing debate over the Internal Revenue Service scandal in large part concerns how to frame the incomplete information that is available. Some of these attempts are as transparently absurd as Lamb’s tweet. Bloomberg columnist Clive Crook finds himself sympathizing with the IRS, “much to my surprise”:

    Plainly, if IRS officials were systematically discriminating against conservative groups with the aim of harassing or suppressing them, that’s outrageous, not to mention criminal. If this was going on at the direction or with the knowledge of the White House, then the scandal rises, of course, to Watergate proportions. But there’s no evidence of any such system or conspiracy, and the idea seems improbable. What we do have, though, are tax laws so complex, and so muddled with the regulation of political spending, that straightforward enforcement is almost impossible.

    Wait a minute. “No evidence of any such system or conspiracy”? Hasn’t Crook heard about the inspector general’s report? It found precisely that the IRS was “systematically discriminating against conservative groups,” in Crook’s words. The question of what the IRS did has already largely been answered. What we don’t know is why.

    Casting about for an explanation that exonerates not only President Obama but the entire political left, The New Republic’s Noam Scheiber comes up with one: “The more we learn about the IRS vetting of conservative groups, the less it looks like an abuse of power than something much more mundane–a beleaguered agency with too few resources to handle its work-load.” ….. big cut

    ……What if congressional investigators, or a hypothetical special prosecutor, fail to find evidence of crime, conspiracy or direct White House involvement? Then guys like Crook and Scheiber will crow that they were right all along.

    But they aren’t. This may turn out to be one of those cases in which the real scandal involves what is legal, not illegal. Obama’s endless demonization of his political adversaries and lack of respect for the gravity of his own office certainly aren’t illegal. The media smear campaign against the Tea Party was protected by the First Amendment. And the IRS could have violated the constitutional rights of countless Americans without running afoul of any criminal statutes in the process.

    The scandal here is that an agency of the federal government used its fearsome authority to benefit the party in power. If it did so unthinkingly, that is even more disturbing than a criminal conspiracy.

    It looks intentional, but someone may have had far less than nationwide effects in mind.

    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)

  45. That was dissappointing on Lamb’s part, seeing as she has been persecuted by Hamid Gul in the past

    narciso (3fec35)

  46. And now she’s on ‘paid administrative leave’.


    Icy (632983)

  47. And that was because she wouldn’t resign re Eamon Javers account

    narciso (3fec35)

  48. Also Dana Bash;

    Acting IRS chief Werfel telling lawmakers he called Lerner trying to get her to resign. she refused, so he put her on administrative leave

    narciso (3fec35)

  49. Maybe they should ask Lois whether the Tea Party because the focus of the IRS following the attack on the IRS office in Austin, Texas — an attack the NY Times blamed on the Tea Party on 2/23/2010.

    DRJ (a83b8b)

  50. “became the focus,” not “because the focus.”

    DRJ (a83b8b)

  51. They could have asked her all these things yesterday. Her invocation of her Fifth Amendment rights was not a pass out of the room. The subpoena obligated her to stay until she was discharged or the hearing was adjourned. She could have been made to respond to questions one by one, asserting the Fifth to each.

    Did Issa drop the ball? Is Gowdy “da man”? It’s all optics, and what plays in Mayberry R.F.D. does not play in the Valley.

    (BTW, Gowdy is full of s**t about the spigot theory of Fifth Amendment waiver.)

    nk (875f57)

  52. This blue on blue stuff is getting good. David PFluffy calls Lanny Davis a blowhard. Huffpo calls for Holder’s firing.

    elissa (36db97)

  53. If I understand correctly, if they give her immunity from prosecution for anything related to what she says in court, then she can no longer take the fifth, is this not correct? If that occurs, then she will be in contempt if she refuses to answer a question, or even more doo-doo if it is found that she lied under oath…

    DO IT.


    Give HER immunity, and force her to talk.

    I want to see the gasp of concern when that happens. See how just how fast the dominoes start falling…

    Smock Puppet, Reactionary Thug and Bon Vivant (83082b)

  54. The problem with civil contempt is that it is lifted if a court determines that the contemnor will never talk and the punishment is therefore pointless.

    nk (875f57)

  55. Yeah, I’m at home on a Friday night.

    nk (875f57)

  56. Just once in my life, I wish that I had been on “administrative leave” with pay, rather than laid off without.

    That’s the way it goes when you actually contribute to your nation.

    Ag80 (eb6ffa)

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