It was no surprise when Lois Lerner the head of the IRS tax-exempt unit at the center of the scandal, invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination during an appearance before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. What everyone found surprising was when Chairman Issa asked if she had an opening statement she said yes:
“I have not done anything wrong,” she said. “I have not broken any laws. I have not violated any IRS rules or regulations. And I have not provided false information to this or any other congressional committee.”
During the rest of the day-long questioning many were wondering of Lerner hurt herself by making a statement.
Of course Rep Issa thought so that’s why he closed the proceedings by saying he may be calling Ms Lerner back to testify –on waiver.
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“When I asked her her questions from the very beginning, I did so so she could assert her rights prior to any statement,” Issa told POLITICO. “She chose not to do so — so she waived.”
Backing up Issa’s belief is Alan Dershowitz the famous Harvard Law School professor.
“She’s in trouble. She can be held in contempt,” Dershowitz told “the Steve Malzberg Show” on Newsmax TV. Congress . . . can actually hold you in contempt and put you in the Congressional jail.”
And from what people say Congressional Jail is much worse than Library Jail
Her brief statement of innocence has opened a legal Pandora’s Box, according to Dershowitz.
“You can’t simply make statements about a subject and then plead the Fifth in response to questions about the very same subject,” the renowned Harvard Law professor said.
“Once you open the door to an area of inquiry, you have waived your Fifth Amendment right . . . you’ve waived your self-incrimination right on that subject matter.”
He said the fact that Lerner went ahead with her proclamation of could be considered malpractice on the part of her attorney — although it’s possible she overruled the advice she received.
“It should never have been allowed. She should have been told by her attorney that the law is clear, that once you open up an area of inquiry for interrogation, you have to respond,” he said.
“Now she may have made a political decision that it’s worth it to take the risk . . . That’s just not the way the law works. It may be the way politics works . . . but she can’t invoke the Fifth.”
“The law is as clear as could be, that once you open up an area of inquiry, you can’t shut off the spigot – that’s the metaphor that the Supreme Court has used.”
Dershowitz may be wrong about Lerner ignoring lawyers advice, there were points during her short time in the committee she turned to her attorney for approval. She doesn’t seem like the type who would go against her lawyers.
I suppose we will find out for sure real soon.