Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican, said Sunday that Lois Lerner will finally testify about the Internal Revenue Service targeting of conservative groups — but Ms. Lerner’s lawyer said she has no plans to testify before Congress.
Ms. Lerner, a former IRS employee, is implicated in the IRS targeting of tea party groups, which came to light after an internal audit last year found the organization improperly singled-out conservative groups and held up their nonprofit applications, sometimes for years. Ms. Lerner refused to testify before Congress last May, invoking her Fifth Amendment right to prevent self-incrimination.
Mr. Issa, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said on “Fox News Sunday” that Ms. Lerner’s lawyer told him she would testify on Wednesday, but Mr. Taylor said he didn’t know why Mr. Issa would think that. When asked about the possibility of a miscommunication, a committee spokesperson said that the committee has written communication from Mr. Taylor that says Ms. Lerner will testify, though they’d like to push back the hearing until next week.
“Bill Taylor, Ms. Lerner’s attorney, has confirmed in writing that Ms. Lerner is willing to testify and she is now requesting a one-week delay for the public hearing,” the committee spokesperson said. “We have informed Mr. Taylor that Ms. Lerner may make her request for a delay on Wednesday when she appears for the hearing.”
If Ms. Lerner does appear before the committee, questions will focus on whether or not anyone else was involved in the scandal as well as why Ms. Lerner felt pressure to target groups with tea party or patriot in their names, Mr. Issa said.
“We know what she did in most cases, what we don’t know is why she did it,” he said. “We do really want to know that burning question of who else knew about it, who else coordinated. Candidly, the American people want to know it won’t happen again and that’s going to be the harder part.”
He suggested Ms. Lerner’s background at the Federal Election Commission could have given her a bias toward organizations that disclose, leading her to want to find out the donors to tea party groups.
In addition to fact-finding, Mr. Issa said Congress will work to put a stronger oversight system in place to ensure one person alone can’t target specific groups on audits or approval of applications.
“You’ve got to hold people accountable, knowing that they’re human, that there will be people doing wrong in government. There have to be checks and balances,” he said.
House Republicans announced last week that they were recalling Ms. Lerner to testify, saying that she has critical information.
“Ms. Lerner’s testimony remains critical to the committee’s investigation,” Mr. Issa said in a letter to Mr. Taylor on Tuesday. “Documents and testimony obtained by the committee show that she played a significant role in scrutinizing applications for tax exempt status from conservative organizations.”