Following a House Oversight Committee hearing Wednesday in which a star witness again invoked her Fifth Amendment rights, and the Democratic ranking member denounced a “one-sided investigation,” committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) told reporters that his long-running investigation into the IRS may have hit a “dead end.”
While speaking to reporters after the hearing, Issa was asked about former IRS official Lois Lerner’s continuing refusal to answer questions from his committee. Republicans consider Lerner a key figure at the center of the IRS’ screening of applications for tax-exempt status from conservative groups. Issa was asked how bad of a setback Wednesday’s hearing was for the investigation.
“As you can see from our questioning today, we have continued to gather facts around Ms. Lerner’s absence of testimony,” Issa replied. “It would have allowed us to bring this investigation to a — probably pretty quick close if she had been willing to answers those questions. Without it we will undoubtably have a few more questions to try to find out things that she could have answered quickly today.”
A reporter than asked Issa if he was still “confident” the investigation would “get to the bottom of this.”
“It may well be we have gotten to the bottom of it,” Issa said. “At this point, roads lead to Ms. Lerner. The witness who to took the Fifth. That becomes — she becomes one of the key characters at this point. Had she been willing to explain those emails which were provided through separate subpoenas, then we could have perhaps brought this to a close. Without that, it may dead end with Ms. Lerner.”
Issa then refused to rule out that Lerner would be held in contempt by the committee, and said that committee members would still confer to consider “our next steps.”
“But Ms. Lerner is not our primary concern today, nor is the contempt,” Issa said.