“But wait,” you say, “if we immunize her, we can’t prosecute her.” My first impulse is to say, “So what?” If she testifies truthfully and gives a full account of what happened, we’ll be a lot more interested in pursuing the officials who instigated the scheme than in prosecuting those who carried it out. But if “Who is going to jail!” is really your big concern, immunity for Ms. Lerner does not protect her if she lies or obstructs the investigation. The statute of limitations on such crimes will not have run out when a new administration takes over in 2017. She could still be prosecuted, and the penalties for those crimes are more severe than whatever her actions at the IRS could have earned her.
If the House really wants to get to the bottom of the IRS abuses, it is long past time to immunize Lerner. Let’s find out what she knows and advance the public’s knowledge of the facts. It will then be possible to determine which, if any, higher-ranking officials in the Obama administration were involved: Were they active participants? Nod-and-a-wink approvers? Unknowing, incidental beneficiaries of the inability of conservative groups to organize effectively?
As things stand right now, the congressional investigation is going nowhere. There is also good reason to doubt that it will ever go anywhere unless it is assigned to a select committee. This week’s contempt drama does not hide these stubborn facts.