Thursday, May 23, 2013

Waiving the Fifth

Yesterday most of us eagerly awaited Lois Lerner's arrival at the House Oversight hearing regarding the IRS Scandal, knowing she planned to plead the fifth. We knew she would take the coward's way out, but I think it was "nice" for many of us to put a face to our anger. Chairman Issa asked if she wished to make an opening statement, and she did. After giving us a brief history of her career as a civil servant, she said this:

On May 14th the Treasury inspector general released a report finding that the exempt organizations field office in Cincinnati, Ohio, used inappropriate criteria to identify for further review applications from organizations that planned to engage in political activity, which may mean that they did not qualify for tax exemption. On that same day, the Department of Justice launched an investigation into the matters described in the inspector general’s report. In addition, members of this committee have accused me of providing false information when I responded to questions about the IRS processing of applications for tax exemption.
I have not done anything wrong. 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. And while I would very much like to answer the committee’s questions today, I’ve been advised by my counsel to assert my constitutional right not to testify or answer questions related to the subject matter of this hearing. After very careful consideration, I’ve decided to follow my counsel’s advice and not testify or answer any of the questions today. Because I’m asserting my right not to testify, I know that some people will assume that I’ve done something wrong. I have not. One of the basic functions of the Fifth Amendment is to protect innocent individuals, and that is the protection I’m invoking today. Thank you.

Beautiful opening statement, but she unintentionally waived her fifth amendment right against self-incrimination. Congressman Trey Gowdy from South Carolina was the first to bring it up, saying she can't testify and not be subject to cross-examination. Issa wasn't too sure, but it took him a few hours to come around. A lot of people were confused or in disagreement, so let me explain this.

When you plead the fifth, that means you don't speak. As Congressman Gowdy said on Fox News this morning, you don't even say "Good Morning" or state your name. When Issa asked if she wanted to give an opening statement her response should have been, "I plead the fifth." Instead she testified to facts on the subject in which she had been subpoenaed. Whether that was mentioning the IG report or claiming her innocence, it doesn't really matter. Once you give testimony and make statements of fact, you can't plead the fifth. After pleading the fifth, she once again said she did nothing wrong. If the testimony prior didn't waive it, that would have done it.

Let's put it this way. There is no gray area. Either you testify or you don't. Either you give full disclosure or you keep it to yourself. You can not start speaking on a subject and then clam up. You either speak or you keep your mouth shut. She chose to speak, therefore she must continue speaking. She was dismissed subject to recall and the hearing is in recess, so she can't re-plead without risking being held in contempt. I have more faith in House Republicans than the ones in the Senate. If Darrell Issa can hold Eric Holder in contempt, then Lois Lerner is a no-brainer.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

You Don't Know...Anything...

I think it's safe to say this has been the worst week in Obama's presidency. I'm sure he didn't expect anyone else besides Fox News to care about Benghazi, and the DOJ isn't doing him any favors. But the IRS. For several years, they've been targeting conservative and Tea Party organizations by making the process to obtain 501(c)(3) and (4) status hell. Yesterday, the Ways and Means Committee held a hearing where the Outgoing IRS Commissioner, Steven Miller, and the Inspector General, J. Russell George, gave testimony. Well...Mr. George gave testimony to the best of his ability. Miller had a case of Obamanesia. I don't know. I can't recall. I can't speak to. I don't remember.

Earlier this week Obama expressed his "outrage" after he caught himself up on the situation because, as he and his people claim, he found out about it from news reports like everyone else. He accepted Steven Miller's resignation and senators and congress people called it a "good first step." The only problem is he was the ACTING commissioner and he was leaving that post in a few week anyway. Plus, he's keeping his benefits and his pension. Another guy who is resigning had only been at his post for eight days. It's not a first step at all, it's a stall. Obama is a creature of habit. When shit hits the fan, he doesn't think it through, he just does something quick to calm the storm. He lets an schmuck "fall on the sword." He blames a video. He lets someone whose "I don't know" answers are almost reasonable take the fall. "Almost" being the keyword. When asked if he knew who was responsible, he said he was told but didn't remember. Most of what he said were lies or carefully worded answers to avoid perjury. He was the wrong person to question. The best person to ask is the low-level employee with nothing to lose or fear. He exists, he just needs to be found.

And I question Obama's outrage. Not because I'm republican or conservative or I have slight Tea Party tendencies, but because I'm an American. It is my job to be skeptical. Obama's focus seems to be restoring the IRS's reputation. He hasn't expressed any remorse or sympathy for the organizations who were discriminated against or the individuals who were targeted by the IRS and other government agencies because they gave money to Mitt Romney and other Republicans. I'm also supposed to believe the that he didn't know about this until last Friday when the rest of the country found out. The IRS confessed to the scandal at an ABA conference after someone asked a question. We later learned fromt Mr. Miller that the question was planted. Are you telling me that the IRS planned to confess to something that could damage the President and they didn't tell him first? We learned from Mr. George that he informed the Deputy Treasury Secretary, Neal S. Wolin, last June, five months before the election. One can assume the Deputy told the Treasury Secretary. But no one told the President the IRS was being audited? In an election year? No one told him that the Republicans could potentially use it against him if it came out? According to Jay Carney, the White House Counsel, Kathryn Ruemmler, found out the week of April 22nd. She didn't tell the President? It's her JOB to inform him of legal issues. Why does she still have a job? It's not like this came out of the blue, Tea Party Patriots have been complaining about this since 2010. If he gets his info from the news, he must have known about the complaints. It never occurred to him to look into it?

This extends beyond conservatives. Billy and Franklin Graham were targeted. A pro-life organization was asked about the contents of their prayers and what kind of signs they hold outside Planned Parenthood. The IRS gave the Human Rights Campaign confidential tax info from the Organization for Marriage. The IRS was used as a weapon. A low-level employee can't do that. Let's be frank: you have to be outside your damn mind to honestly believe Obama didn't know about this. If he didn't know, then what is he good for? Hillary Clinton didn't know what was going on in the State Department. Eric Holder doesn't know what's going on at the DOJ. Steven Miller didn't know what was going on at the IRS. Unless Fox News reports it, Obama doesn't know what's going on anywhere. But I don't believe that. I don't know what connection Obama had to this, but he's not innocent. The IRS isn't an independent organization or quasi-independent. It's a part of the Treasury, which is a part of the Executive Branch. Who is the boss of the Executive Branch? Barack Obama. Mr. Wolin wasn't hired by the Treasury Secretary. He was appointed by the President. Doug Shulman, who preceded Steven Miller, was appointed by George W. Bush, but that is irrelevant. Bush isn't his boss anymore. Obama campaigned to be responsible for Shulman. Who appointed his successor, Steven Miller? Obama. Obama claiming ignorance is his way to avoid responsibility, but it makes him every more responsible because it means he wasn't doing his job. Ultimately, Obama encouraged and inspired this behavior. He set a tone of division and envy and fear. He turned the Tea Party into the big bad wolf, making it acceptable for them to be treated this way.

If he was outraged and honest, Ruemmler would be out of the job and he would be calling on Sarah Hall Ingram, whoever she is, to testify before Congress. Instead, he's biding his time. Why? Hearings will resume Monday, which is good because we have more questions than answers.