(Below was emailed to me by FNC Chad Pergram0
Floor Statement of Rep. Elijah E. Cummings
Ranking Member, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
Debate on the Issa Contempt Resolution
May 7, 2014
Just shy of one year ago, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration reported that the IRS had used inappropriate criteria to review applicants for tax-exempt status. The very same day, Chairman Issa went on national television before he received a single document or interviewed a single witness and said, quote:
“This was the targeting of the President’s political enemies effectively and lies about it during the election year.”
Republicans have spent the past year trying to prove these allegations. The IRS has spent more than $14 million responding to Congress and has produced more than half a million pages of documents. We have interviewed 39 IRS and Treasury Department employees. And after all of that – we have not found ANY evidence of White House involvement or political motivation.
Yesterday, I issued a report with key portions from the nearly 40 interviews conducted by the Committee to date.
These interviews show definitively that there was no evidence of any White House direction or political bias. Instead, they describe in detail how the inappropriate terms were first developed and how there was inadequate guidance on how to process applications.
Now, let me be clear that I am not defending Ms. Lerner. I wanted to hear from her. I have questions about why she was unaware of the inappropriate criteria for more than a year after they were created. I want to know why she did not mention the inappropriate criteria in her letters to Congress.
But I cannot vote to violate an individual’s Fifth Amendment rights just because I want to hear what she has to say. A much greater principle is at stake here today – the sanctity of Fifth Amendment rights for all citizens in this country.
And I will not walk a path that has been tread by Senator McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee.
In this case, a vote for contempt not only would endanger the rights of American citizens, but it would be a pointless and costly exercise.
When Senator McCarthy pursued a similar case, the judge dismissed it. The Supreme Court has said that a witness does not waive her rights by professing her innocence.
In addition, more than thirty independent experts have now come forward to conclude that Chairman Issa botched the contempt procedure by not giving Ms. Lerner the proper warnings at the March 5th hearing when he rushed to cut off my microphone and adjourned the hearing before any Democrat had the chance to utter a single syllable.
For instance, Stan Brand, who served as the House Counsel from 1976 to 1983, concluded that Chairman Issa’s actions were, quote “fatal to any subsequent prosecution.”
The experts who came forward are from all across the country and the political spectrum. J. Richard Broughton, a member of the Republican National Lawyers Association and a law school professor, concluded that Ms. Lerner “would likely have a defense to any ensuing criminal prosecution for contempt, pursuant to the existing Supreme Court precedent.”
Rather than squandering our valuable resources pursuing a contempt vote that more than thirty independent experts have concluded will fail in court, we should release the nearly 40 transcripts that have not yet been made public and allow all Americans to read the unvarnished facts for themselves.
With that, I reserve the balance of my time.