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House committee to hold Lois Lerner in contempt

Committee Chair Darrell Issa said they planned to move forward with the contempt hearing after talks with Lerner's lawyer fell through.

By Gabrielle Levy
Lois Lerner, Director of Exempt Organizations for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), invokes her fifth amendment right during a House Oversight and Governmental Reform Committee hearing on the IRS and it's targeting of conservative groups, on Capitol Hill on May 22, 2013 in Washington, D.C. UPI/Kevin Dietsch
Lois Lerner, Director of Exempt Organizations for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), invokes her fifth amendment right during a House Oversight and Governmental Reform Committee hearing on the IRS and it's targeting of conservative groups, on Capitol Hill on May 22, 2013 in Washington, D.C. UPI/Kevin Dietsch | License Photo

WASHINGTON, April 7 (UPI) -- The House Oversight Committee will vote this week to hold former IRS official Lois Lerner in contempt after months of failed attempts to force her into answering questions about the so-called targeting scandal that slammed the tax agency last year.

Lerner, who appeared before the committee on May 22, 2013 and again last month, only to plead the Fifth Amendment over her involvement in an alleged effort by the IRS to focus on Republican groups in an attempt to limit their influence in the 2012 election.

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“Documents and testimony point to Lois Lerner as a senior IRS official responsible for conduct that deprived Americans of their rights to free speech and equal protection under our laws,” said Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif.

“Americans expect accountability and want Congress to do all it can to gather relevant evidence about what occurred and who was responsible so that this never happens again," Issa said in a statement, released by the committee last week. "Ms. Lerner’s involvement in wrongdoing and refusal to meet her legal obligations has left the Committee with no alternative but to consider a contempt finding.”

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Issa said they moved to proceed with the contempt hearing after talks with Lerner's lawyer fell through.

The Committee has also subpoenaed the IRS to turn over Lerner's emails, a process IRS Commissioner John Koskinen says will take months of extensive effort.

The vote is expected to pass in the Republican-led committee and be sent to the full House over objections from Democrats who call the ongoing investigation a "witch-hunt" and accuse their colleagues of looking for politics where there weren't any.

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Holding Lerner in contempt could lead to an outside court forcing her to testify. If she were to refuse, she could be thrown in jail, although the power is rarely used.

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