Member of Congress Seeks Arrest of Lois Lerner on Contempt Charges

“IN THE COMMON JAIL OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA”

by Sharon Rondeau

The day following the vote to hold former IRS supervisor Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) issued a report on Congress’s historical role in acting on contempt citations

(Jul. 11, 2014) — Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX36) on Thursday put forth a “simple resolution” asking the House of Representatives’ Sergeant-at-Arms to arrest former Director of the IRS’s Exempt Organizations Unit Lois Lerner for contempt of Congress.

H.Res. 664 is entitled “Providing for the arrest of Lois G. Lerner to answer the charge of contempt of Congress” and has been referred to the House’s Committee on Rules.  The text of the proposal is not yet posted at thomas.gov but is contained in Stockman’s press release on his website.

After putative Attorney General Eric Holder was held in contempt of Congress in June 2012 for withholding documents relating to the deadly “Fast & Furious” gunrunning operation, The Washington Times reported that he, too, could have been arrested and jailed for “inherent contempt,” which has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In a May 8, 2014 report, the Congressional Research Service explains how the concept of “inherent contempt” of Congress may be acted upon against individuals who have ignored its subpoenas to testify.  The report was issued the day after Lerner was held in contempt.

Of the historical precedent for Congress’s power to incarcerate an individual it finds in contempt, the CRS wrote (page 4):

The inherent contempt power is not specified in a statute or constitutional provision, but has been deemed implicit in the Constitution’s grant to Congress of all legislative powers. In an inherent contempt proceeding, the offender is tried at the bar of the House or Senate and can be held in custody until such time as the contemnor provides the testimony or documents sought, or until the end of the session. Inherent contempt was most often used as a means of coercion, not punishment. A statutory criminal contempt provision was first enacted by Congress in 1857, in part because of the inadequacies of proceedings under the inherent power. In cases of criminal contempt, the offender is cited by the subcommittee, the committee, and the full House or Senate, with subsequent indictment by a grand jury and prosecution by the U.S. Attorney. Criminal contempt, unlike inherent contempt, is intended as a means of punishing the contemnor for non-compliance rather than to obtain the information sought. A statutory civil enforcement procedure, applicable only to the Senate, was enacted in 1978. Under that procedure, a witness, who refuses to testify before a Senate committee or provide documents sought by the committee can, after being served with a court order, be held in contempt of court and incarcerated until he agrees to testify. Moreover, the House and Senate have authorized standing or special committees to seek civil enforcement of subpoenas.

In May of last year, the IRS admitted to political “targeting” of groups and individuals which it saw as antithetical to the Obama regime’s agenda, which included pro-life organizations; traditional marriage proponents; religious and “Constitution“-based organizations; Dr. Benjamin Carson and Wayne Allyn Root, both of whom were vocal Obama critics; Tea Party groups; TruetheVote, a voter integrity organization; and individuals who had adopted children.

The singling-out of certain tax-exempt applicants for extra scrutiny and delay reportedly was founded upon searches for certain keywords such as “patriot” and “tea party” in their applications.  First described as an activity limited to the Cincinnati, OH IRS office, whistleblowers later came forward to indicate that the targeting was directed from the main office of the IRS in Washington, DC.

When asked to testify to the House Oversight Committee shortly after the discovery of the targeting, Lerner made a statement asserting her innocence, then claimed Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination.  After she refused to testify a second time under subpoena, she was held in contempt of Congress on May 7, 2014.

Lerner is an attorney who has worked for the U.S. Department of Justice, the Federal Elections Commission, and the Internal Revenue Service over more than 20 years.

Documents obtained by Judicial Watch from the IRS show that certain IRS employees, in collusion with Democrats in Congress, were seeking to find evidence to support filing criminal charges against some “conservative” groups.  A more recent revelation showed that Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) was considered a “target” by Lerner and a coworker.

The Wire cites documents it obtained through a FOIA request which reportedly show that “progressive” groups were also targeted and placed on “Be-on-the-lookout” (BOLO) lists, but many of the documents shown are almost entirely redacted, including the names of the groups allegedly so targeted.  House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa refuted that claim in an April 7 report in which he wrote:

Myth:  IRS “Be on the Lookout” (BOLO) entries for liberal groups meant that the IRS targeted liberal and progressive groups. Fact: Only Tea Party groups on the BOLO list experienced systematic scrutiny and delay.

Organizations developing “open source” software also were reportedly singled out for additional scrutiny.

A report issued on June 16 from the House Oversight Committee contends that public statements Obama made early in his first term following the January 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United that “Political spending is a form of protected speech under the First Amendment, and the government may not keep corporations or unions from spending money to support or denounce individual candidates in elections” encouraged the political targeting launched by IRS employees beginning in 2010. A summary paragraph of the Oversight Committee’s investigation to that point reads:

The Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative tax-exempt applicants is inherently political. The targeting began in early 2010 in the wake of the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission [11], a decision vigorously and vocally opposed by the President and congressional Democrats. Throughout 2010, in the run-up to the congressional midterm election, President Obama and high-profile Democrats repeatedly criticized the decision and conservative nonprofits they feared would benefit from it. The intense political rhetoric generated by the President led to the IRS’s systematic scrutiny and delay of conservative tax-exempt applicants.

At the same time that the Oversight Committee released its June 2014 report, Senate Finance Committee ranking member Orrin Hatch told Fox News that requests from congressional investigators for emails related to the targeting scandal could be claimed to have been “deleted.”  “You can’t put anything past this administration,” Hatch said.

House Oversight Committee ranking member Elijah Cummings asserted that the IRS’s actions did not involve Obama.

An individual identifying himself as a “White House attorney” co-hosted a radio show aimed at ridiculing and defaming Obama’s political, philosophical and moral opponents.  Maricopa County, AZ Cold Case Posse lead investigator Mike Zullo, who announced more than two years ago that Obama’s Selective Service registration form and long-form birth certificate are “computer-generated forgeries,” stated last fall that the IP numbers of some of Obama’s operatives were traced by a second criminal investigation “into the White House.”

Issa has been seeking thousands of emails relating to the IRS targeting dating back to 2010, but IRS Commissioner John Koskinen told him on June 23 that the emails were lost because of a hard drive crash on Lerner’s computer in 2011.  Some in the media were quick to assert that the emails “will never be found,” but IRS policy requires the backup of all electronic communications “to protect against information loss or corruption.”

On Wednesday, Fox News reported that Lerner had cautioned her coworkers at the IRS via email to “be cautious about what we say in emails” in the event that Congress ever asked to review them.

On June 20, Koskinen told the House Ways and Means Committee, which is also involved in the probe, that hard drives used by 82 other IRS employees experienced similar “crashes” leading to unrecoverable data.  However, he told Rep. Jason Chaffetz of the Oversight Committee that emails are “stored in servers.”  He admitted that “We can find Lois Lerner’s emails” in response to Chaffetz’s stressing of the congressional subpoena issued for them, but then speculated that “a judge would not enforce” it.

Lerner reportedly canceled a contract with Sonasoft, a company which provides backup and archival services for large email customers, after her hard drive “crashed” and was reportedly recycled.

Also on Thursday, a federal judge ordered that IRS officials “explain under oath” the means by which Lerner’s emails were allegedly lost in response to a lawsuit filed by the government watchdog group Judicial Watch.  Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, who issued the ruling, ordered IRS authorities to “explain how Lerner’s files may be recovered through ‘other sources.'”

Pundit Dick Morris said that Sullivan could sentence Lerner to jail until she agrees to testify.  “This will really be the beginning of the end for Obama over this scandal,” Morris predicted.

Stockman stated in his press release that rather than imprisoning Lerner in the U.S. Capitol, where Congress convenes, he prefers that she be arrested and held in “the D.C. jail.”

Lerner retired last fall and reportedly is collecting a six-figure pension paid for by U.S. taxpayers.

The closing paragraph of Stockman’s resolution reads:

Resolved, That the Speaker issue his warrant, directed to the Sergeant-at-Arms, or his deputy, commanding him to arrest and take into custody forthwith, wherever to be found, the body of Lois G. Lerner, and bring her to the bar of the House without delay to answer to the charge of contempt of its authority, breach of its privileges, and gross and wanton insult to the integrity of its proceedings, and in the meantime keep the body of Lerner in his custody in the common jail of the District of Columbia, subject to the further order of the House. While in custody, Lerner shall enjoy no special privileges beyond those extended to her fellow inmates, shall not access any computer or telephone, and shall not be visited by anyone other than her counsel, clergy, physician, or family.

 

 

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