Republicans to Holder: Spill Lerner details

House Republicans on Thursday urged the Justice Department to give them details about an interview with former IRS official Lois Lerner.

ADVERTISEMENT
In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) accused the Justice Department of standing in the way of their investigation into the stricter scrutiny that the IRS gave to conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.

Issa and Jordan pressed Holder for all the documents relating to the scope and timing of the department’s interview with Lerner, the IRS official who first apologized for the agency’s treatment of Tea Party groups.

"For over eight months, the committee has sought to carry out its oversight obligations in concert with the Department of Justice's law-enforcement duties," Issa and Jordan wrote to Holder. "At every stage, the department has refused to fully cooperate with the committee."

GOP lawmakers have said they resent that Lerner would twice take the Fifth Amendment in front of Congress, while sitting down with federal authorities without any promise of immunity. Republicans are also angry that an attorney in the department’s IRS investigation donated to President Obama.

Bill Taylor, Lerner’s attorney, has said his client agreed to sit down with federal authorities because she believed she would be treated fairly. That’s not the case, Taylor said, at the House Oversight Committee, which he accused of running a partisan investigation that sought to vilify Lerner.

In their letter, Issa and Jordan asked for details about when and where the Lerner interview took place and who was involved. They also asked whether Lerner took the Fifth in that interview but did not request a transcript.

House Republicans have shown interest in holding Lerner in contempt of Congress, after they ruled that she waived her Fifth Amendment rights by defending herself in an opening statement in May 2013. Democrats have maintained that Issa dropped the ball on that front by not fully warning Lerner that she would face contempt charges if she did not answer questions at a hearing this month.

For its part, the Justice Department has also recently brushed aside GOP requests that it appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the IRS’s treatment of groups seeking tax-exempt status.