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Dem lawmaker: Lerner oversight hearing ‘hearkens back to the McCarthy era’

Virginia Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly pulled no punches when asked what he thought about Wednesday’s Oversight Committee hearing with Lois Lerner, claiming Chairman Darrell Issa’s treatment of the accused IRS official “hearkens back to the McCarthy era.”

Connolly spoke with MSNBC’s Ronan Farrow about today’s hearing on alleged IRS’ targeting of Tea Party groups, where former Exempt Operations head Lois Lerner again refused to testify on her role in the scandal by exercising her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Democrats — including Connolly — appeared extremely displeased by Issa’s decision to haul Lerner back before the committee after a ten month hiatus.

“What you just saw is a profound abuse of power by a chairman of a committee,” Connolly accused. “It is precisely the kind of thing the Founders anticipated in crafting the Fifth Amendment, to protect citizens from that abuse of power. Unfortunately we saw it on full display today by Darrell Issa and the majority.”

“Why did Issa bring her back to testify at all?” he continued angrily, noting that under DC code it would be illegal to bring someone before a legislative body after they had invoked their Fifth Amendment right.

Farrow explained that many Republicans believe Lerner waived her right when she gave an opening statement during her initial appearance before the committee last May.

“The Republicans are not entitled unilaterally to say to any citizen they have waived their right,” he responded. “All deference has to be given to a citizen who invokes the Fifth Amendment.”

“It ought to bother, of all people, Tea Party members, who say they’re concerned about the hobnail boot of government on their necks!” the congressman continued. “This is an egregious abuse of power by a governmental entity, namely the Republican majority of our committee.”

Connolly claimed the Republicans are “cooking the books” in order to bring a contempt citation against Lerner.

“The sole reason is because this plays well with their base,” he charged. “The facts that the rights of an individual citizen are going to be trampled upon, that’s just a casualty of war from their point of view.”

“It’s a shameful episode that frankly hearkens back to the McCarthy era,” the lawmaker angrily concluded.

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