There was a brief bit of non-Ukraine related excitement in political circles this weekend when Congressman Darrell Issa announced that Lois Lerner – of IRS, Why I Would Never Target the Tea Party, But I’ll Take the Fifth fame – would be making a return engagement in DC following her impromptu retirement. The reason? She was finally going to testify.
Lois Lerner, former director of tax exempt organizations for the IRS, will testify this week on Capitol Hill, Rep. Darrell Issa said Sunday.
Issa said he received word from Lerner’s attorney that she will provide testimony to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee about her role in potentially unfair targeting of certain political groups by the IRS.
The excitement may have been both premature and short lived, however. This, according to Lerner’s attorney.
Rep. Darrell Issa doesn’t know what he’s talking about, the attorney for former IRS official Lois Lerner said Sunday.
Issa, the California Republican who chairs the House Oversight and Reform Committee, told “Fox News Sunday” that Lerner, the former head of the IRS tax-exempt division, would testify before his committee Wednesday, which he said he had been told by her attorney.
That attorney, William W. Taylor, said Issa is wrong.
“As of now, she intends to continue to assert her Fifth Amendment rights,” Taylor told POLITICO. “I do not know why Issa said what he said.”
This raises some interesting questions, no matter how it turns out. Issa is not prone to sudden fits of fantasy or baseless enthusiasm, at least from his previous, lengthy track record. There had to have been some sort of communications going back and forth between Issa’s people and Lerner or one of her minions. I’d submit that one of two things happened to ramp this up to the level of a perhaps premature announcement.
The first possibility is that new evidence has come to light during ongoing investigations – perhaps a new witness who decided to testify with inside information not previously heard – which put enough of a scare into Lerner that she reconsidered. If that were the case, most likely some form of Limited immunity would have been floated for her to seal the deal. But in that scenario, the news would have to have been fairly damning to scare Lerner off of her 5th amendment perch. (A position I never thought she deserved in the first place, as I wrote last year.)
The other option is that there wasn’t anything new, but Issa had grown tired of waiting and let Lerner know that he could serve up a complete immunity deal, calling the wolves away from her gate and potentially opening up doors for her to peddle her story to highest bidder. Either way, the incentive was probably there for her to come to the table.
So what made the deal fall apart after Issa already let CNN in on it? Pitch in your own ideas. It could be anything from a case of cold feet to confidants approaching her to advise against it. If we really wanted to delve into tinfoil hat territory, it could have been a feint to get Issa to go public and then spurn him in the press to make him look bad. But to what point?
If there’s really any fire under this puff of smoke I expect we’ll find out in the coming days. And if Issa goes through with hauling her in on Wednesday, odds are that he’s got more up his sleeve than just a rehash of the same song and dance she delivered last time.