Thursday, May 23, 2013

Lather Reince, Repeat: Priebus Claims IRS's Lois Lerner Must Be Guilty Of Something, Since She Invoked The Fifth Amendment

Tom Kludt of TPM:

Let's play anagrams!
During an appearance on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," [RNC Chair Reince] Priebus said that pleading the fifth "implies there are some criminal aspects" of the IRS scandal. John Heileman, a writer for New York Magazine who was sitting on the show's panel, cried foul at that characterization.

"But you don't need to plead the fifth if you've done nothing wrong," Priebus said.

"That's not true. That's not what the Fifth Amendment says," Heileman retorted.

Priebus ultimately toned down his interpretation of Lerner's action, saying it "raises questions." Heileman scoffed at the chairman's suddenly vague assessment of the situation.
As I've often stated, the entire GOP is utterly and willfully clueless about even the most basic principles embedded in the Bill of Rights.

Lerner takes oath
Google "lois lerner fifth amendment" and you'll notice immediately that most opinions on whether Lerner waived her right to invoke the Fifth Amendment split along political lines: for example, ABC's political blog The Note strongly implies she waived. But even the WSJ Law Blog concedes that, though ill-advised, Lerner's broad-brush denial of any illegal action on her part is unlikely to qualify as testimony under the Fifth Amendment.

Moreover, Committee Chairtroll Issa engaged in a bit of... let's be honest... entrapment of Lerner. From the linked ABC post:

... Rep. Darrell Issa, the Republican chairman of the committee, said he had not seen the document and asked Lerner to authenticate her answers.

The document was passed [to] Lerner, who put on her glasses to skim through it.

“This appears to be my response,” she said.

“So it’s your testimony?” Issa of California asked. “As far as your recollection, that is your response?”

“That’s correct,” Lerner answered.

Republicans on the committee quickly interjected, challenging that Lerner gave up her right to remain silent and should be compelled to answer questions from members.

If this were a fair trial in a court of law, and Issa were the judge, Issa's use of the word "testimony" alone would be enough to invalidate a claim of waiver of Fifth Amendment rights: using the word is clearly a form of entrapment. But a congressional committee is not a court, and Issa is an asshole not a judge. In any case, if Lerner is now forced to testify after a clear attempt to invoke her right to refuse testimony, no one in America will ever trust the protection of the Fifth Amendment again. And Priebus, also an asshole not a judge, will have the power to declare guilt in the face of an invocation of the Fifth Amendment. What a great day that would be for American legal tradition!


  1. You get to invoke your right at any time. You can do it on a question by question basis, if you want, but continuing questioning after the right has been invoked is not OK, and will get a reprimand from a real judge, after anything solicited is thrown out as inadmissible.

    If they really wanted to hear from her, they could have offered her immunity, but they didn't.

    1. Bryan, Darrell Issa is the Dan Burton of the current Congress. He has no serious investigative purpose; he simply wants to score political hits. Lerner "took the Fifth" on the advice of her attorney, and IMHO it was the only sensible thing she could have done. Issa's course of action was less an investigation than a prosecution/persecution, and that's the very behavior that necessitates acceptance of the invocation of the Fifth Amendment by a congressional committee as surely as before a court of law.

      (I know a lot of work on Mozilla Firefox is done in Great Britain, but damnittohell, I'm really tired of every major version update reverting the spelling checker to en_GB. "Behaviour," MFA!)



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