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February 9, 2016

Issa Cuts Off Cummings at IRS Hearing (Updated) (Video)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo) 

Updated 11:57 a.m. | House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., cut off Rep. Elijah E. Cummings’ microphone and adjourned this morning’s hearing on the IRS while Cummings was still speaking — marking a new low in the pair’s rocky relationship.

The dust-up came at the end of the hearing where IRS official Lois Lerner again pleaded the Fifth Amendment and refused to testify — when Cummings, the ranking member of the panel and a Maryland Democrat, sought to ask a question and make a statement on the IRS inquiry.

But Issa cut off Cummings’ microphone with a hand to the throat gesture as Cummings started to make a statement about Issa’s handling of the investigation instead of asking a question.

Democrats immediately ripped into Issa.

“Republican democracy in action,” said Democratic Caucus Vice Chairman Joseph Crowley of New York at a Democratic leadership news conference. “What has happened to regular order? What has happened to both sides being able to weigh in? Mr. Issa, I understand, had the opportunity to make an opening statement as the Chairman of the Committee. He did not offer that same respect, that collegial respect, to the ranking member, Mr. Cummings.”

“That, I think, further demonstrates the breakdown, the camaraderie, or what is wrong with Washington and the Congress today.”

Crowley also took a jab at Republicans’ continued investigation into the IRS.

“Congressman Cummings will … have an opportunity to express his thoughts in terms of this false investigation,” he said. “There’s no smoking gun except for a cap gun that makes a lot of smoke but that’s it. … If there was an issue of corruption, Mr. Issa was informed of it prior to the 2012 elections of this investigation. If Mr. Issa, the Investigative King of America, didn’t choose to investigate it back then, when the president was on the hook for an election, but all of a sudden, now they find it? It doesn’t smell right.”

Here’s a transcript of the exchange:

CUMMINGS: Mr. Chairman, you cannot run a committee like this. You just cannot do this. We are better than that as a country. We are better than that as a committee.


I don’t care but the fact is I am asking a question. I am the ranking member of the committee and I want to ask a question.

What are we hiding? What’s the big deal. May I ask my question? May I make my statement?

ISSA: You are all free to leave, we’ve adjourned, but the gentleman may ask his question.

CUMMINGS: Thank you very much. Mr. Chairman, I have one procedural question, and it goes to trying to help you get the information by the way that you just asked.

ISSA: What is your question?

CUMMINGS: No, let me say what I have to say. I’ve listened to you for the last 15 or 20 minutes. Let me say what I have to say. Chairman, I have one procedural question.

ISSA: Ms. Lerner, you’re adj — you’re released — you may …

CUMMINGS: But first, I would like to use my time to make some brief points. For the past year, the central Republican accusation …

ISSA: We’re adjourned, close it down. …Thank you.

CUMMINGS (mic cut off): … in this investigation (garbled) …

CROWD: Shame, shame

CUMMINGS: … Before our committee read a single document or interviewed one witness Chairman Issa went on national television (crosstalk) the president’s political enemies effectively and lied about it during an election year. He continued this theme on Sunday …

ISSA: Mr. Cummings … Mr. Cummings, what is your question?

CUMMINGS: If you will sit down and allow me to ask a question …

Issa has been probing the IRS’s delays and targeting of tea party and other groups’ applications for tax-exempt status. In particular, Republicans have been trying to tie the IRS investigation to the White House. But Lerner has refused to testify. And President Barack Obama in an interview before the Super Bowl maintained there was no corruption at the IRS.

Cummings’ office later released the congressman’s prepared statement that he had intended to read in full before he was cut off:

Mr. Chairman, I have one procedural question, but first I would like to use some of my time to make a few brief points.

For the past year, the central Republican accusation in this investigation has been that this was political collusion directed by—or on behalf of—the White House. Before our Committee received a single document or interviewed one witness, Chairman Issa went on national television and said this: “This was the targeting of the President’s political enemies effectively and lies about it during the election year.”

He continued this theme on Sunday when he appeared on Fox News to discuss a Republican staff report, claiming that Ms. Lerner was “at the center” of this effort to “target conservative groups.” Although he provided a copy of his report to Fox, he refused my request earlier this week to provide it to Members of this Committee.

The facts, however, do not support these claims. We have now interviewed 38 employees who have all told us the same thing—that the White House did not direct this, suggest it, or even know about it at the time it was occurring. And none of the witnesses or the documents identified any political motivation.

The Inspector General, Russell George, told us the same thing. He found no evidence of any White House involvement or political motivation. Instead, the very first line of the “results” section of his report says that it began with employees in Cincinnati who “developed and used inappropriate criteria to identify applications from organizations with the words Tea Party in their names.”

Our Committee confirmed this fact when we interviewed a Screening Group Manager from Cincinnati. This manager explained that his employees were the ones who first came up with inappropriate search terms in 2010. He denied any political motivation, and he made his point by explaining that he is a “conservative Republican.” I released his entire interview transcript eight months ago for anyone who wants to read it for themselves.

The Inspector General’s report also found that Ms. Lerner did not discover the use of these criteria until a year later—in 2011. When she learned about them—and I quote again from the report—Ms. Lerner “immediately directed that the criteria be changed.” Mr. George’s chief investigator also reviewed more than 5,500 emails from IRS employees and—again—found no evidence of political motivation.

Over the past year, our Committee has obtained hundreds of thousands of pages of documents and interviewed dozens of witnesses. The IRS has spent more than $14 million responding to congressional investigations. But we have identified absolutely no evidence to support allegations of a political conspiracy against conservative groups.

What we have identified, however, is evidence of gross mismanagement. Ms. Lerner failed to discover that employees were using these search terms for a year, and even after she ordered them to stop, they returned to using similar inappropriate criteria. And, like former IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman, Ms. Lerner failed to inform Congress about what she knew.

So I do have serious questions for Ms. Lerner, and I am disappointed I will not get to ask them today. But I do not support the Republican conclusion that she waived her Constitutional rights nine months ago when she invoked the Fifth Amendment, and I do not believe a court would uphold that conclusion.

Now, Mr. Chairman, I would like to ask my procedural question. On February 26, Ms. Lerner’s attorney sent a letter to the Committee saying that he met with your staff last month. At that meeting, her attorney wrote, “The staff asked if I would provide a proffer of the testimony she would give if immunized, and I agreed to do that.” But that did not happen.

As I understand it, accepting a proffer does not grant immunity to the witness. It does not bind the Committee in any way. Instead, it allows the Committee to obtain information without requiring the witness to waive her Fifth Amendment rights. I was not invited to the meeting last month with Ms. Lerner’s attorney, and I have not been included in any negotiations. But it seems to me that the Committee loses nothing by accepting this proffer, and in fact we may gain important information.

To prepare for today’s hearing, we sought the legal opinion of Stan Brand, who served as the General Counsel for the House of Representatives from 1976 through 1983. According to Mr. Brand, a proffer is “simply a representation of what a witness’s testimony would be if called given by the attorney for the witness.” Mr. Brand makes clear that accepting a proffer does not grant the witness immunity. He states: “It is not a waiver of the privilege and thereby preserves the right of the witness to assert it in any subsequent proceeding.”

So Mr. Chairman, my question is whether the Committee can schedule a time—preferably this week—for all Committee Members to hear the proffer from Ms. Lerner’s attorney. Mr. Chairman, can we do that?

Emma Dumain contributed to this report.

  • 1tootall

    Classic, classic….misdirection. Cummings is like the junk they throw on the water when oil leaks and it soaks up the oil. His job was to deflect from Lerners completely illegal behavior, as she has a direct line of accountability that leads to the White House. And as usual, he did a great job. Now the media will only talk about this fake conflict. Well done sir. You may be acting like a traitor, but it was well done.

    • twinsidious

      “His job was to deflect from Lerners completely illegal behavior, as she
      has a direct line of accountability that leads to the White House.”

      That statement is entirely false. There’s no direct line of accountability to the White House, and Cummings is trying to present information that Issa repeatedly tries to suppress. Why no acceptance of the proffer? Why isn’t ranking member Cummings invited to negotiations? Why did Issa tell the IG to focus his audit only on applications by Tea Party groups whose approvals were delayed, in spite of there being many progressive groups that had also been flagged? Why does Issa repeat false talking points regardless of how many times he’s shown to be incorrect? Point out everything stated as fact in Cummings’ statement above that you believe to be false and cite evidence–not opinion–that contradicts him. If his claims are factual, it’s hardly “junk” being thrown out there. It’s information that Issa is doing his utmost to suppress.

      • 1tootall

        why did Cummings lie in accusations about Catherine Englebrecht? Why doesn’t Cummings have an opinion about the obvious unconstitutional behavior by Lerner…who links DIRECTLY TO THE WHITE HOUSE!!! No one, NO ONE visited O’bama as often as the head of the IRS. Why did Issa tell the IG to focus on the Tea Party??? Maybe because that’s who they were targeting!!! You are obviously a low information voter who has no appetite for the truth and only wants to suppress the opposition, which is what this whole affair is about, anyway! You are clearly in the Marxist camp.

        • heatherGirl

          Also there were very very few liberal groups targeted. Lerner herself was the person who first came out and said the Tea Party was targeted…… that is how this whole thing started!

          • Chilidawg

            No conservative groups were denied tax exempt status.

            Give it up already.

          • 1tootall

            And you know this how, genius??? Because I happen to know it to be true. Either you are willfully lying, or you choose to take talking points without discretion. They most certainly denied tax exempt status to several. Read the news. Or, if you understand how to Google, (that would be the internet), type in Cleta Mitchell, and Catherine Englebrecht. If you run into any big-boy words, come on back and we will hep you. Otherwise, quit wasting our time.

          • johnblack45john

            Then where is your proof?

          • migtex1234

            LOL:= GUESS you do not read?

          • Zach Peterson

            Yup, and all those Obamacare horror stories were lies… buahahaha

          • Chilidawg

            People are not only getting used to Obamacare, but they are starting to like it.

            Too bad, so sad

          • johnblack45john

            Pretty much

          • johnblack45john


        • johnblack45john


          • 1tootall

            No need to prove anything to you. You would accept anything said because you wouldn’t understand it. I have enough connections with primary parties that there is no need to get you involved.

          • johnblack45john

            There is nothing a simpleton like you could tell me that I wouldn’t understand. And you have no proof period. That’s why you can’t provide any.

      • 1tootall

        not only was it planned, the outrage was completely fake, except to fools like you.

        • Chilidawg

          What brand of foil do you make your hats out if?

          • 1tootall

            You clearly reflect the ultra-low information voter who hasn’t had a moment of clarity in quite a while. You read through these like they are cartoons and throw out old, overused cliche’s as though they have meaning. All you are doing is embarrassing yourself, and wasting our time. Why don’t you go on over to, with the other neanderthals??????

          • Chilidawg

            Since you seem to be the font of “high information,” Can you please let me know how many successful investigations that Issa has concluded? Thanks a bunch.

          • 1tootall

            Not the topic,issue or point of the article…as I said please “move on” over to “”, where you belong.

          • Chilidawg

            Oh, yeah. That Darryl Issa, he’s been so successful, he will get elected president in 2016- Not.

            For four years, Issa has wasted how many millions of dollars tilting at windmills?

            That is the topic here.

            Issa deserves criticism as he has been an abject and total failure.

          • johnblack45john

            It never cease to amaze me how clueless neo cons like you who voted for both Bush boys not once but twice and then turn around and vote for McCain and then Mitt can call anybody a low information voter

    • Chilidawg

      You got to love a good conspiracy theory.

      Oh, look, chemtrails!

    • johnblack45john

      What is illegal about her behavior? How would you know anything about her if she pleaded the fifth?

  • Layla

    If there is nothing to hide, why does Ms. Lerner keep taking the Fifth? Why does Ms. Lerner still have her pension? NOBODY in this entire Administration will be held accountable for anything they have done thanks to the absolutely weakest Republican representation in the history of this nation.

    The American people are disgusted with all of you and you don’t even know it.

    • Chilidawg

      Daryl Issa is on a witch hunt.

      I bet that if he could, he would have her bound up and tossed into a pond to see if she floats.

      • Zach Peterson

        Chilidawg, this is grandma… you promised you were going to get off your computer and find a job, I need my basement back.

        • Chilidawg

          Wow, grandma speaks from the dead.

  • Zoche

    I am so tired of Cummings giving everyone in the room a lecture every time there is a hearing. The email documents prove there is evidence of wrong doing. Lerner had public documents on her private commuter. There are questions that need to be answered, unfortunately Holder is protecting Obama rather that the American citizens. it will take the Republicans taking the Senate to have enough stroke to appoint an Independent prosecutor. How similar is Lerner protesting her innocence than Nixon saying, “I am not a crook”. Who is Cummings covering up or is him? He has tried to intimidate the tea party members who gave testimony to the committee. I smell something rotten.

    • johnblack45john

      I am so tired of clueless neo cons like you who don’t know your a** from a hole in the wall. There is not oine thing you posted here that you can prove period. Turn off Fox News and read a book.

      • 1tootall

        Wow. Judging from your posts you sound like a genius. It’s fun to go through and read all your cliche posts.

        • johnblack45john

          Compared to the likes of you and your ilk I am Einstein.

  • Latrobe Ligonier

    Cummings is a fraud and everyone knows it. Left wing liberals posing as “journalists” (known as the “crowd” in this story) just want to help him.

    • Chilidawg

      Darryl Issa is a car thief and an arsonist.

      • Charli03

        The wealthiest republican in the house and one of the biggest liars I have ever seen in public service. He has a very ugly soul and no conscience. Jail did not teach him anything.

      • Zach Peterson

        Cummings, is that you hiding behind a fake name?

    • johnblack45john

      Every tea bagger like you believes this but real America knows different.

  • heatherGirl

    Democrats say they want the truth….. but then they say they want to end the investigation when the truth has not been learned.
    How can we know the truth when a key figure pleads the 5th? And how exactly does that work, she is saying she did nothing illegal, but if she answers questions she would self incriminate? How does that make any sense?
    She has also said she would testify if she receives immunity. Why do you ask for immunity, while claiming you have done nothing illegal? What is she asking for immunity from?
    And if Democrats truly want the truth, how can they then accept the idea that a key player refuses to testify? Obviously they don’t want the truth!

    • Chilidawg

      The truth came out. There is no there there. It’s not the democrat’s fault that the republicans can not accept this.

    • migtex1234

      Democrats do not want citizens to know what they have been doing.

  • Chilidawg

    Darryl Issa is contemptible

    There is no other way to put it

    • Zach Peterson

      And you are a bore.

      • Chilidawg

        Yawn. Takes one to know one.

  • Chilidawg

    So how many years has Issa been chairman of this committee? What has he done in all that time except bully people?

    • Zach Peterson

      He’s learned a lot from Obama, huh?

  • Chilidawg

    Does anyone remember how, after the tea party led shutdown of the government last October, Darryl Issa was all over the news about how he was going to “investigate” the National Park Service for shutting down the parks?


    He even went so far as to subpoena a bunch of NPS records.

    What happened with that investigation, Darryl?

    Was it another dead end?

  • Chilidawg

    I hear that Issa’s car alarm company is going to come out with a new car navigation product. Unfortunately, like Darryl, it keeps veering off into blind alleys with no way out.

    • Zach Peterson

      Was this some kind of attempt to be ironic and funny? Or just stupid? Well, if I have to ask, I’ll assume it was the ladder.

  • Charli03

    And I’m so tired of uninformed, biased lies and people believing them. Mr.Cummings was entitled to five minutes which he didn’t get. If you admire Issa for his behavior, past and preset, you aren’t doing your research. His arrogant, ugly behavior was unforgivable. He continues to rant about IRS long after it has been proved that the only organizations denied charity status were progressive, not tea party, not Karl Rove with his bevy of secret donors who may or may not even be Americans. If we have an investigation about anything, it should be about Issa’s secret meeting with the head of IRS, who just happens to be a Bush appointee. So, who is covering for whom. If you smell something rotten you were standing downwind of Issa.

    • Zach Peterson

      He’s entitled to 5 mins WHEN GRANTED. It wasn’t granted. I think you need to brush up on your committee rules, Charli03, you’re not only off base, the rest of your rant is off kilter. Pull your head out of Obama’s backside.

      • ZackForester

        The granting of said minutes is purely procedural. He’s a ranking member and in any committee chaired by Republican or Democrat in the past, he would’ve been given his opportunity to speak, but not under the current crop of Representatives running the House today. Cummings raises a good question and the only reason the proffer was not accepted was because Issa doesn’t care about the truth. He has an agenda to smear the President’s name at any cost and the longer he draws this investigation out, the longer he has the opportunity to trot out this dog and pony show like it actually means something long after everyone living in reality has already moved on.

  • Zach Peterson

    All this Jackass Cummings had to do is state the last paragraph of his document, above in the story, where he actually DID ask a procedural question ONLY AFTER ranting against republicans.
    Cummings… fail.

  • Chilidawg

    Going nowhere fast.

    More time wasters from Darryl.

  • devlooshen

    Although liberty and collectivism both offer “equality”, liberty offers equality of opportunity while socialism offers equality of servitude.

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