Just when we thought Lois Lerner might be safely out of the public spotlight, the House Oversight Committee might reel her back in. The Daily Caller reports that Lerner’s attorneys are negotiating with the House panel to strike an immunity deal that would restart the hearing session from which she withdrew with an arguably-faulty invocation of her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination:
IRS scandal figure Lois Lerner is negotiating through her lawyers with Rep. Darrell Issa’s House Oversight and Government Reform Committee about possibly gaining immunity to testify again in the committee’s investigative hearings.
“The Chairman did not adjourn the hearing, he recessed it. Ms. Lerner remains under subpoena. The Committee has not made any offer of immunity to Ms. Lerner. The Committee has, however, indicated a willingness to listen to any offers from her attorney about what she would testify to if it was offered,” Oversight Committee adviser Ali Ahmad told The Daily Caller. …
Though Lerner, who apologized for her IRS division’s improper scrutiny of conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status, can be called back before Issa’s committee without immunity, and even arrested if she doesn’t show up, Oversight seems to be taking a more diplomatic approach to get information out of her.
It’s not just a diplomatic effort. Lerner could be compelled to appear again, but she’d just take the Fifth if dragged back into the hearing room, and this time without any added commentary. Republicans can argue about the defective nature of her first invocation for the next decade, but short of a contempt order, there’s not much they can do about it except to strike her remarks from that previous appearance. Winning a contempt prosecution is no slam dunk, either, especially since Eric Holder’s Department of Justice would have to take it to court, and there’s little evidence that they would be enthusiastic about doing so.
What would immunity do for Lerner? So far, she looks like the linchpin in the effort to target conservatives at the IRS on the basis of their politics. They need her to testify truthfully about who ordered what and when, in order to see if this attack on the administration’s political opponents reaches to presidential appointees or the White House itself. If she has that kind of information and is willing to testify to it, I think Oversight would trade full immunity for it. If it turns out that this was all a Lois Lerner Production, though, they’re not going to give her squat. Then again, if that’s all Lerner has, then her attorneys wouldn’t even be bothering to talk to House Oversight’s counsel about immunity.