The first time House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) tried to hear testimony from Lois Lerner, the former head of the IRS’ tax exempt division, she asserted her Fifth Amendment rights, as expected. Today, Issa brought Lerner back, knowing she wouldn’t testify, but wanting to put on a little election-year show for the cameras anyway.
But as the above video makes clear, the interesting development wasn’t Lerner’s decision not to testify, which everyone already knew would happen, but the heated confrontation between Issa and the committee’s ranking member, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.).
For about 15 minutes, Issa, already well aware of the fact that Lerner wouldn’t answer his questions, strutted for the cameras, pushing his favorite talking points about the discredited scandal.
When he was done, Issa decided to abruptly end the hearing. When Cummings sought an opportunity to speak, Issa invited everyone in attendance to leave. When Cummings proceeded anyway, Issa cut off the power to the congressman’s microphone.
“I am a member of the Congress of the United States of America!” Cummings shouted. “I am tired of this.”
Issa apparently believes he did the right thing.
After walking out, Issa defended his actions to reporters, saying that Cummings intended to “make a speech.” “He was talking into a mic in an adjourned meeting,” Issa said. “He was actually slandering me at the moment that the mics did go off by claiming that this had not been a real investigation.”
First, lawmakers from both parties making introductory remarks at a hearing (i.e., “a speech”) is pretty normal, not something for a committee chairman to prevent.
Second, there’s nothing “slanderous” about calling out Issa’s charade.
And third, Cummings wasn’t “claiming” that this had not been a real investigation”; he was proving it.
No wonder Issa cut his microphone; Cummings was telling the audience what Issa didn’t want people to hear.