Proposed bill would fire federal employees who invoke the Fifth

Alec Hill Contributor
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Alabama Republican Rep. Mo Brooks has sponsored legislation that would make refusing to testify in front of Congress a firable offense for federal workers, The Hill reported Thursday.

The legislation is nicknamed the “Lerner” bill, after Director of IRS Exempt Organizations Lois Lerner, who plead the Fifth Amendment in front of a House committee on May 22 about her role in the IRS’s targeting of tax-exempt tea party groups.

Lerner infuriated GOP members of the House by first stating that “I have not done anything wrong,” before pleading the Fifth, leading South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy to argue that Lerner waived her rights by delivering that short statement. California Rep. Darrell Issa later agreed with Gowdy.

“When I asked her her questions from the very beginning, I did so so she could assert her rights prior to any statement. She chose not to do so — so she waived,” Issa told Politico.

The wording of Brooks’ resolution is to the point, saying in the first section: “Any federal employee who refuses to answer questions in a congressional hearing after being granted immunity shall be terminated from employment.”

Lerner has been on paid leave since the scandal broke.

A third section of the resolution may also apply to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who many have argued gave blatantly false testimony to Congress in April concerning the National Security Agency’s warrantless wiretapping of American citizens.

The third section states: “If three-fourths of the congressional body to whom the testimony was given finds that a Federal employee willfully or knowingly gave false testimony in a congressional hearing, then such employee shall be terminated from employment.”

In March, Clapper was asked by Sen. Ron Wyden during a hearing “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?”

“No, not wittingly,” Clapper responded. “There are cases where they could inadvertently perhaps collect, but not wittingly.”

It has since been revealed that the National Security Agency collects email metadata and phone records across the country.