Two House Republicans are pressing Attorney General Eric Holder to reveal information on an interview between federal prosecutors and former IRS official Lois Lerner.
Lerner declined to answer questions before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee but according to her lawyer granted a full interview to the Justice Department in an investigation into whether the IRS wrongly burdened conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.
In a Thursday letter, Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) asked for information on the scope and timing of the interview and any communications about possible immunity for Lerner.
The interview reportedly happened within the last six months with unspecified department attorneys, according to an attorney for Lerner, an ex-IRS official at the center of Republican scrutiny.
The lawmakers complain that Lerner “spoke freely” to department attorneys without any grant of immunity “while refusing to provide public testimony” to the committee Issa chairs, according to the March 20 letter.
Conservatives have condemned the Justice Department’s handling of the investigation as being politically biased.
Earlier this month, the Justice Department refused a request by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) to have a special prosecutor appointed to look into the IRS’ handling of conservative groups. Cruz – along with many conservatives – complained that the attorney leading the department’s investigation is prejudiced against conservatives because she gave money to President Barack Obama.
In a letter made public this week, the department a special prosecutor wasn’t necessary and that department employees are required to keep politics out of decisions on investigations.
Jordan and Issa also want to know who conducted the interview, what other agencies were present and whether Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
Since Lerner has avoided questions from lawmakers but spoke at length with prosecutors without a promise of immunity, conservatives have questioned the seriousness of the Justice Department probe.
Jordan and Issa told Holder that they found the department’s handling of the investigation troubling and previously asked for information on how it was being conducted. Peter Kadzik, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs ,responded on behalf of Holder in a January letter, but the lawmakers complained it gave “no useful information” and said the Congressional inquiry was targeting tax-exempt applicants.
In the Thursday letter, the lawmakers said they are only requesting limited information on the Lerner interview though the committee is entitled to much more.
“As a part of its Constitutional obligation to perform oversight of the Executive Branch, the Committee is entitled to all material relating to the Department’s interview of Lois Lerner,” said the letter, which requests answers by April 3.
A representative from the Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.