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Contempt vote set for Lerner, new House report lays out allegations

 

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee formally laid out its allegations against Lois Lerner, the former IRS official at the center of the Tea Party targeting scandal, in a report Tuesday -- ahead of a scheduled committee vote on whether to hold her in contempt of Congress. 

The committee plans to vote Thursday on holding her in contempt for failing to testify twice before the panel. On Wednesday, a separate committee will consider referring her case to the Justice Department for possible criminal prosecution. 

The moves come after lawmakers tried repeatedly to press Lerner for answers about the tax collecting agency and its targeting practices against conservative groups.

“Lois Lerner’s testimony is critical to the committee’s investigation,” the oversight report states. “Without her testimony, the full extent of the IRS’s targeting of Tea Party applications cannot be known, and the committee will be unable to fully complete its work.”

The report details Lerner’s role in the Tea Party cases, including emails she sent to Michael Seto, manager of the Technical Office within the Exempt Organization division.

In a Feb. 1. 2011 email, Lerner wrote that "Tea Party Matter very dangerous" and ordered the Office of Chief Counsel to get involved, according to the report. She also pushed to pull the cases out of the Cincinnati office altogether, advising Seto that "Cincy should probably NOT have these cases."

Seto testified before the committee that Lerner ordered a "multi-tier" review for the test applications, a process that involved her senior technical advisor and the Office of Chief Counsel.

Later, Lerner, after being told about a backlog of more than 100 cases, “ordered her staff to adjust the criteria,” according to the report.

The report repeatedly called out for Lerner for refusing to cooperate with the committee’s investigation.

During her first appearance before the committee last year, Lerner gave an opening statement and then invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination three times before being excused. Last month, she was before the lawmakers once more, once again exercising her Fifth Amendment rights.