Transcript for Congressmen Clash at IRS Scandal Hearing
This is a special room. Counsel has advised me that I have not waive my constitutional rights under the Fifth Amendment and on his advice -- will decline to answer any question on the subject matter of this hearing to you're not gonna tell us who. Wanted to fix the problem caused by Citizens United. On the advice of my counsel I respectfully exercise my Fifth Amendment right and declined to answer that question. -- Hmong question after question. Former IRS official Lois Lerner refusing to answer congressman Darrell ice is inquiries into the IRS Tea Party scandal. Hello everyone I'm Michelle Franzen in New York with this ABC news digital special report nine months after the initial investigation the house oversight committee. Brought back the head of the IRS's exempt status division. But -- -- again pleaded the fifth on allegations that the IRS purposely deny tax exemptions -- Tea Party and other conservative groups. The congressman Darrell ice it got so frustrated today that he ended up. At the hearing without letting anyone else get a word in that made ranking member Elijah Cummings also very -- Yeah. Congressman Darrell ice that cut off the -- dismissed slowest learner. And then. Walked out of the chamber. For more on the hearing and all the hollering and exchanges I want to bring an ABC news political director Rick Klein in Washington brick. Was -- genuine frustration or just -- It's a little portable book please ice and Cummings are -- loggerheads over -- and Democrats and Republicans as to whether there's anything to the Cyrus scandal. Or whether in the view of Democrats this is just an attempt by. Chairman rice and Republicans -- just -- solving that they know will pay a political dividends the idea of bringing a woman back before the committee when she is already asserted their Fifth Amendment right. She has said that he is not gonna testify to bring her back for that whole -- that's an -- Democrats upset and and Democrats when they try to take over the -- -- point out what they view as a sham hearing. That's what prompts -- chairman ice at the start. Societal microphones -- and an ending his own hearing -- an extraordinary display of -- partisanship and the rhetoric that has rankled -- many in congress taking place. Today in the chief investigative. Committee in congress. And Rick actually before this meeting we had heard from missed learners lawyer that she had set yet set -- certain media reports that she wasn't going to change your testimony. So when congressman I says now indicated that lowest learners silence could have consequences let's listen to that. If ms. Lerner continues to refuse to answer questions from our members. Well she's under a subpoena the committee may proceed to consider whether she should be. Held in contempt. Now Rick what would holding her in contempt -- Well it could mean it could meeting that the congress is it is a criminal charges could -- mean jail time at the at the utmost but. I think what's key here is that your -- -- neither he once again close dealer's testimony on the record -- the owners reach -- there that -- it is going to happen. In any way I think a lot of this has to do with -- tactical definition of what it constitutes -- take the fifth and whether she actually asserted that right at the beginning her -- -- testimony so they can get caught up -- some legal -- pretty quickly the question is -- what what he's being gained by this and this is this scandal has been out there in the public we have had acknowledgment of wrongdoing we've had retirements and resignations as a result of it. We have not had any of the -- any smoking gun at least -- up to the White House which is what Republicans has been after. All law chairman -- has shown that he is a he isn't applicable law when it comes -- investigating. -- anything that the Obama at White House does and he's been a constant thorn in their side. And he has taken things at times a little bit further than even some of his colleagues would like they've been a lot of things times where they -- look. We understand your on this but there's other things you -- to focus on as a congress and this is becoming a more of a sideshow the IRS or has not been far in the headlines. Of late and now when it -- -- the headlines this because congress utterly breaks down inside committee. -- we saw how things played out today we saw the potential set up for -- perhaps charges that you mentioned take this back nine months ago when this all began. What exactly is the iris accused doing -- It turned out there -- a series of Tea Party groups that it applied to the IRS for tax exempt status. That -- Actually had additional scrutiny because of the means of their organizations things like Tea Party things like patriots. Things like that would would set up automatic red flags inside the IRS system the question is why that happened -- nothing wrong with getting scrutiny if you apply for tax exempt status. A lot of these groups skirt federal law by by splitting their time between political and nonpolitical activities. But the idea of an automatic scrutiny level of scrutiny because of a Tea Party affiliation or words in your title that suggests he party affiliation. That suggests given the context of political year that that there was something going on that was very political in nature at the IRS and the idea of politicizing that. Is problematic and that's what started this is all what we've learned since then as he appears to be in the work of people who. We're trying to find a way to manage these influx of organizations that it come into the system starting twelfth 2010. And they've just found some ways to make it happen automatically there were some liberal groups that were targeted as well there's no question of the conservative groups had to jump through more hoops to get their -- -- status. That's what as Republicans -- That's what I was going to ask you had there been any other groups that conservative or moderate or liberal but it -- also targeted. Here that's come to -- there have any -- that's the iris his job they should ask these. As they're supposed to ask these questions of organizations but the idea of -- it's something in your title or stated political affiliation or political goals would by themselves trigger that automatically. When you don't have anything equivalent on the other side we don't know any automatic. Red flags that would have happened from groups that organized the left and there are plenty of them as wealth -- that's what's that's a problematic it is and the scrutiny itself it's the idea of automatic scrutiny automatic additional hoops and hurdles you have to go through. Because you happen to put yourself in one political column verses another. And where the White House stand on this and have they spoken out recently. I don't know the recent comments on this BI beyond saying it through this has been handled in -- many investigative committees present Obama himself was upset by this he ordered a full review. We -- a new head of the IRS coming in as in part as a result of this. I think it was more frustration on the White House and anything else because they. Appear not to have known about this at the time they didn't know about it until inspector general's report was about to come out last year on the subject to this whole Lotta Lotta -- in the White House is sort of Haitian history and just -- -- partisan bickering at this point. I know one of the things that a lot of Republicans are suspicious of as the fact that. This didn't come out until after the 2012 elections there were people that -- working on this investigation that -- people that knew about. The red flags -- -- going on inside the IRS before the election it did not come to light publicly until afterward. And give me an idea what could congress used to force -- -- to testify at this point is it just the charges. I think intent of congress is -- likely as -- to handle this to compel some kind of testimony they -- -- also offer an immunity deal of some sort at least when it pertains to the congressional testimony. But again I don't expect that level ever gonna see -- -- tell this side of the story. In this kind of a -- I think there's other settings foreign navy criminal ones that got to that. I don't think though that she's given no indication there lawyer that she's likely to change our stance on this particularly before chairman I suspect.
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