Did Rep. Elijah Cummings Lie?

California Rep. Darrell Issa adjourned a House Oversight hearing after IRS official Lois Lerner pleaded the Fifth, refusing to answer even one of his questions about the IRS targeting conservative groups.

After 15 minutes, he gave up and said, “Seeking the truth is the obligation of this committee. I have no expectation that Miss Lerner will cooperate with this committee and therefore we stand adjourned.”

As soon as Issa closed the hearing, Democratic Oversight Committee Ranking Member Rep. Elijah Cummings said he wanted to make a “statement.” 

When he realized Issa wasn’t going to let him make a statement in a hearing that was for the sole purpose of trying to get answers from Lerner about the IRS targeting, Cummings switched gears and said he wanted to ask a “procedural question.”

Cummings: Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, I have a procedural question.

Notice that he’s sticking with that, instead of repeating that he has a statement.

Issa: We’re adjourned.

Cummings: Mr. Chairman, you cannot run a committee like this. You just cannot do this.

Oh, yes we can! If we’ve learned anything from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, you can run a committee just like this. And worse—Issa’s adjournment of the hearing was nothing compared to Reid’s refusing to allow Republicans to add amendments to the bill extending emergency unemployment benefits. It is nothing compared to Reid’s blocking bills from House Republicans to reduce federal regulations, allow for more energy independence, reform job training programs, help schools recruit good teachers, and scale back Obamacare.

Cummings: We’re better than that as a country. We’re better than that as a committee. I have asked for a few minutes to ask a procedural question.

But first you said it was a statement….

[Mic cut]

Cummings: And now you’re turning me off.

Issa: We are adjourned.

Cummings: The fact is I’m asking a question. I am a ranking member of this committee and I want to ask a question. What are we hiding? What’s the big deal? May I ask my question? May I state my statement?

Issa: We are 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.

Oh really, well this should be helpful. It’s good to know Cummings wants to get to the truth of the IRS violating the rights of American citizens. Makes one wonder why he didn’t ask Lerner any questions.

Issa: What’s 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.

Um, he is letting you say what you have to say. Didn’t you have a question? You said you had a question. Or is it a statement? You initially said you have a statement.

Issa: Miss Lerner, you’re released.

Cummings: But first I would like to use my time to make some brief points.

What? I thought you had a question. Or a statement. Now, you want to make some brief points? How far down the rabbit hole are we going to go with this?

Cummings: For the past year, the central Republican accusation in this investigation…

Okay, here we go, it’s about the Republicans. I see.

[Mic off]

Issa: We’re adjourned. Close it down.

Cummings: …has been that there 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, and I quote, “This was the targeting of the president’s political enemies effectively, and lies about it during the election year.” End of quote.

Issa: Ask your question.

Cummings: If you will sit down, and allow me to ask the question…

You had your opportunity to ask your question, but you didn’t. You launched off in an attack on the chairman. You never intended to ask a question.

Cummings: I am a member of the Congress of the United States of America. I am tired of this. We have members over here each who represent between them 700,000 people. You cannot just have a one-sided investigation. There is absolutely something wrong with that. That is absolutely un-American.

Now, what exactly does he mean by “one-sided investigation”? This is important because if he means both Democrats and Republicans need to be participating in the investigation, then where are the Democrats? If anything, they have impeded the investigation, not participated in it. 

Issa: We had a hearing. The hearing’s adjourned. I gave you an opportunity to ask a question. You had no question.

Cummings: I do have a question.

Issa: I gave you time…you gave speech.

Cummings: Chairman, what are you hiding?

Where did that come from? But, this is exactly what Cummings was getting to. The one-sided investigation comment now comes to light. The one-sidedness of the investigation has nothing to do with Democrats and Republicans both participating in the investigation of the IRS or with Cummings being able to make a statement, or ask a question, or make some brief points, but with the Republicans themselves being investigated. If Issa is going to question Lerner, then Issa must be questioned.

Off-Camera: He’s taking the Fifth, Elijah.

That person gets it—it’s not about getting to the truth of why Lerner is taking the Fifth; it’s about turning the tables on Issa and the Republicans and making them out to be the real threat—not a massive government willing to violate the rights of citizens for political power.

As for that procedural question, I never heard it. Did you? Of course not. That was a lie. The Democratic Party isn’t about seeking the truth. It’s about deflection, misdirection, and cover-up. If we don’t realize that, accept it, and fight it, we’re lost.

  1. Pilli

    Cummings is pushing hard  to get his way and to change the outcome of Issa’s investigation.  Cummings is working HARD.  I have not heard any reporting of Republicans in the Senate working equally hard to get their way during committee meetings.  Is this just media ignoring Republicans or are they not fighting?

  2. D.C. McAllister
    C
    Pilli: Cummings is pushing hard  to get his way and to change the outcome of Issa’s investigation.  Cummings is working HARD.  I have not heard any reporting of Republicans in the Senate working equally hard to get their way during committee meetings.  Is this just media ignoring Republicans or are they not fighting? · in 4 minutes

    Both. The media isn’t about the truth. They don’t believe in it. And the all the Republicans–united–are not fighting. 

    Why hasn’t there been a special prosecutor assigned to this case? Polls have shown that a majority of the people want it. We should be pushing for it.

  3. D.C. McAllister
    C
    JavaMan: Did he open his mouth and form sounds that may be interpreted as language? · in 1 minute

    lol. good point.

  4. JavaMan

    Did he open his mouth and form sounds that may be interpreted as language?

  5. Group Captain Mandrake

    I watched the whole sorry episode and then Greta van Susteren’s interview with Issa.  I’m really not sure what Cummings was saying, but he threw in a gratuitous reference to people being interviewed by Fox News and then droned on in the manner that D.C. outlined above.  He was interviewed later by a Fox reporter and claimed that he was only after “the truth”.  If that’s the case, why isn’t he pushing to get answers to those questions which must lead to “the truth” and which Lois Lerner dodged, rather than excoriating Issa?

  6. Parent A

    Wow. Thanks for this.

  7. Last Outpost on the Right

    Cummings is a archetypal, power-hungry machine Democrat, who has gerrymandered his way to staying in office for an entire generation. And this little escapade has played well back in his home district.

    Unfortunately, there is almost no way he doesn’t get reelected, and his seniority makes these kinds of opportunities available for him whenever he wants them.

    There was no question. There was no substantive statement. There was only grandstanding.

    And this was not in the least bit surprising. 

  8. Kozak

    Issa was an idiot. He should have kept Lerner on the stand for hours, asking her every relevant question, forcing her to take the 5 the over and over again, like the corrupt Mafia Don she is.

  9. Larry3435

    I really don’t want a special prosecutor.  Once a SP is assigned, the case disappears for three years.  No one will comment or testify in public because of the “pending investigation.”  And at the end of the day, the SP indicts some clerk for perjury because she changed a word in her testimony on the 23rd time the question was asked.  

    Issa is doing a good job.  The media may not cover it, but the ammunition is there for candidates who want to make the case.

  10. Group Captain Mandrake
    Kozak: Issa was an idiot. He should have kept Lerner on the stand for hours, asking her every relevant question, forcing her to take the 5 the over and over again, like the corrupt Mafia Don she is. · 4 minutes ago

    Last time Issa let slip the dogs of war in the form of Trey Gowdy.  Where was the redoubtable Congressman yesterday?  

  11. Roberto

    I found the entire spectacle downright bizarre and I use the word advisedly. 

    My understanding is that the hearing only occurred at all because Ms. Lerner had agreed to testify, the email exchange between her attorney and Rep. Issa’s staff appears to confirm this. However instead she shows up merely for the purpose of pleading the Fifth yet again?

    So in the end the only outcome of the hearing is that Rep. Cummings has his unhinged rant on the record. The entire affair has the stench of some hackneyed collusion. 

  12. Kelly B

    I can’t bear to watch this stuff, but did somebody think to ask Lerner why she was so eager to waste the committee’s time and the taxpayers’ money?

    She and Cummings together were there to further the story that the GOP is being unfair and racist and homophobic and bigoted and any other bad word you can think of. That was their entire purpose, and from the bits of news reports on the topic I’ve heard since, they achieved it.

    We are so screwed.

  13. Larry3435
    Kozak: Issa was an idiot. He should have kept Lerner on the stand for hours, asking her every relevant question, forcing her to take the 5 the over and over again, like the corrupt Mafia Don she is. · 4 minutes ago

    Why?  Because some undecided voter might sit through it all on CSPAN and change his mind on the 237th time she takes the 5th?  More grandstanding.  No thanks.

  14. Susan in Seattle

    I’d comment at greater length but I really must go check my blood pressure.

  15. robberberen

    Don’t get me wrong — I think Issa was right to shut down the hearing and not allow Cummings to grandstand, but if we applied that standard to every hearing they would all be about 12 minutes long.

    Seems like it’s pretty much par for the course for committee members to make some long, meandering statement before concluding with a brainless, leading “question” which is really only tacked on so they can pretend that their bloviating was a necessary prologue.

    But, given the fact that there was no witness here, Cummings claim to have a “procedural question” wouldn’t have justified a diatribe against Republicans.  So I guess his actions were slightly more objectionable than the average committee member statement disguised as a question.

    Man, thank God I practice in a courtroom, where making a mockery of the rules of procedure has consequences.

  16. D.C. McAllister
    C
    KC Mulville

    Issa had said earlier, on Fox News Sunday, that Lerner and her lawyer had agreed that she had to testify … no deal or immunity. I thought the basis was that the moment she used her last testimony to make a statement defending herself, she unintentionally (but legally) waived her right to plead the Fifth.

    In between that appearance on FoxNews Sunday and the hearing, obviously, things changed. The lawyer denied he had made such a deal. Issa scheduled the meeting with the belief that she was going to testify, but she pulled the rug at the last minute. Now they’re “considering” filing charges of contempt. There is no way -no way- that Issa can let her get away with that.

    Minutes ago, I walked by a hallway TV monitor, tuned to CNN, where the Congressional Black Caucus is demanding that Issa be removed as chairman. This is distraction, pure and simple. The Democrats are desperately trying to distract from Lerner and make it about Issa. · in 5 minutes

    So the attack on Issa continues. Nice. 

    We need to get just as nasty with these people. What do you think, KC?

  17. Klaatu

    I do not want a special prosecutor but wound like to see the Speaker appoint a select committee and have that committee appoint a chief investigator to conduct the majority of the questioning. The problem with congressional hearings, especially on the House side is the large number of committee members limits the time available to any single member. Questioning becomes disjointed and it is made worse when the minority members use their time to defend rather than question witnesses.

  18. KC Mulville
    Kelly B: I can’t bear to watch this stuff, but did somebody think to ask Lerner why she was so eager to waste the committee’s time and the taxpayers’ money?

    Issa had said earlier, on Fox News Sunday, that Lerner and her lawyer had agreed that she had to testify … no deal or immunity. I thought the basis was that the moment she used her last testimony to make a statement defending herself, she unintentionally (but legally) waived her right to plead the Fifth.

    In between that appearance on FoxNews Sunday and the hearing, obviously, things changed. The lawyer denied he had made such a deal. Issa scheduled the meeting with the belief that she was going to testify, but she pulled the rug at the last minute. Now they’re “considering” filing charges of contempt. There is no way – no way – that Issa can let her get away with that.

    Minutes ago, I walked by a hallway TV monitor, tuned to CNN, where the Congressional Black Caucus is demanding that Issa be removed as chairman. This is distraction, pure and simple. The Democrats are desperately trying to distract from Lerner and make it about Issa.

  19. Doug Kimball

    I wish our lawyers would step up and comment on the “taking of the fifth.”  There is no need for this “defense” if there is not a presumption of guilt.  Of course everyone in the US is presumed innocent when charged with a crime, so the government must “prove” guilt beyond a reasonable doubt (a very high standard.)  This is not a trial and no criminal charges have been made, however, Lerner’s “fifth amendment” refusal not only allows, but is dependent upon, in Lerner and her lawyer’s reasoned judgment, an assumption that she is guilty of a crime or crimes which such testimony may likely reveal.  She can’t “take the fifth” to shield others who may have committed crimes, just herself.  So we can all conclude that she is guilty, of what we have not yet discovered, but something. 

    Cummings was just blowing smoke.  He was dissed.  Good for Issa.

  20. Throat Wobbler Mangrove

    Cummings is a despicable hack.  

Want to comment on stories like these? Become a member today!

You'll have access to:

  • All Ricochet articles, posts and podcasts.
  • The conversation amongst our members.
  • The opportunity share your Ricochet experiences.

Join Today!

Already a Member? Sign In