It’s like asking congressional interrogators to define the meaning of ‘is’. In the growing IRS scandal under congressional investigation, the IRS chief who has the most to say refuses to say anything other than that she did nothing wrong.
Which made me wonder if she really believes that, in the increasingly hostile political climate in which, for some, the end justifies the means, and the end is to advance an agenda by means of targeting and crushing opponents of it. The question of what behaviors are ‘wrong’ in this culture is certainly treated with aggression because relativism prevails. But saying something is not wrong doesn’t make it right, it’s just a denial of a truth.
Congressional investigators are trying to get at the truth of the IRS targeting scandal, and they’re growing increasingly frustrated.
As the House Oversight Committee commenced its hearing on the IRS Scandal Wednesday, it was clear that Democrats, visibly angered by the decision of IRS Exempt Organizations director Lois Lerner to answer questions, turned on the agency. Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
In a fiery statement, Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA), cited the State Department’s annual human rights report, and the practice of tyrannical regimes that enact human rights on paper but fail to honor them in practice. He compared the conduct of the IRS in singling out Tea Party and conservative groups to those regimes.
The witnesses were then sworn in. Lerner read an opening statement in which she denied providing false information to the committee or any other body: “I have not done anything wrong,” she said defiantly.
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) demanded that Lerner be made to testify, arguing that she had waived her Fifth Amendment rights by telling her side of the story. In a courtroom, he said, she would have been regarded as having waived her rights–and, he pointed out, Ranking Member Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) had said he wished to conduct the hearings like court proceedings.
Actually, Lerner showed some of her sense of right and wrong by starting to tell her side of things in that opening statement, and then claiming the Fifth so as not to have to tell more. Which means she not only likely waived her Fifth Amendment rights as Gowdy and others claim, but she may have exposed herself to contempt charges, says noted legal expert Alan Dershowitz.
Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz said Wednesday that Lois Lerner, the IRS official who oversaw exempt organizations during the admitted targeting of conservative political groups, could be held in contempt and even go to jail after her appearance at a congressional hearing earlier in the day.
Lerner made a brief opening statement — insisting she had “done nothing wrong” — before invoking her Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate herself. Some legal scholars, including Dershowitz, have said that in giving the opening statement, Lerner may have waived her Fifth Amendment protections.
“She’s in trouble. She can be held in contempt,” Dershowitz told “the Steve Malzberg Show” on Newsmax TV. “Congress … can actually hold you in contempt and put you in the Congressional jail.”
Dershowitz, who helped advise O.J. Simpson’s defense team, said Lerner “should never have been allowed” to make her opening statement.
“You can’t simply make statements about a subject and then plead the Fifth in response to questions about the very same subject,” Dershowitz said. “Once you open the door to an area of inquiry, you have waived your Fifth Amendment right… you’ve waived your self-incrimination right on that subject matter.”
That’s clear to someone who knows right from wrong.