John Heller/WireImage(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama will nominate former campaign official Katherine Archuleta as director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) on Thursday, according to a White House official.
Archuleta served as national political director for Obama's 2012 reelection campaign. She was the first Latina to serve in that role on a major presidential campaign, the White House said. Former OPM director John Berry's term expired last month.
Obama's appointment of Archuleta comes after the president faced pressure from Latino advocacy groups to appoint Hispanics to serve in his second-term cabinet. More than seven in 10 Latinos voted for Obama in last year's election, but the number of Latino cabinet members is set to fall from two to one.
Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar both left the administration this year. Thomas Perez, a former Justice Department official, was nominated to fill Solis' position at the Department of Labor.
The position of OPM director is not a cabinet-level role. The agency, however, does oversee the hiring of federal employees and the pension and insurance plans for federal retirees. That role has become increasingly important as the federal government grapples with across-the-board sequestration spending cuts. The $85 billion in cuts this year alone have caused agencies to furlough employees.
Before serving as the Obama campaign's political director in 2012, Archuleta was chief of staff to Solis at the Department of Labor. A Colorado native, she worked as a senior adviser to Denver's first Latino mayor, Federico Peña (D), from 2005 to 2009.
Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Facing angry lawmakers before the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew promised that those involved in the Internal Revenue Service scandal will be held accountable once more facts are known.
“We are going to get to the bottom of it -- anyone who is accountable will be held accountable,” Lew told the House Committee Wednesday. “I have made clear that it is an extraordinarily high priority, my highest priority to restore confidence in the IRS.”
As Lew faced the committee, in another hearing room a few doors down, Lois Lerner, the IRS’ director of the Exempt Organizations, pleaded the Fifth Amendment in front of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Lew was pressed if he agreed with Lerner’s personal assessment that she did “nothing wrong.” The treasury secretary refused to answer one way or the other.
“I'm going to wait to have all the facts,” he replied, “I don't have all the facts. We have to make decisions based on facts.”
Lew, who also testified before the Senate Banking Committee Wednesday, ticked through more broadly what details are still not known. These items, he said, will be reviewed by incoming Commissioner Daniel Werfel, whose first day on the job was Wednesday.
“How could the communications be so bad? How could the management be so loose? And I can't sit here today and tell you we've completed that,” Lew said, “Is there something systemic about the management structure of the Internal Revenue Service that needs to be fixed to be able to say, with confidence, that not just with regard to this area, but more broadly, we've taken the kind of look to be able to say that we can be confident that this won't happen again?”
As he did Tuesday, Lew continued to stress that he believes, backed up by the evidence of the IG report, that while “outrageous methods to determine if certain groups qualifies for tax-exempt status” were used, “this conduct was not politically motivated.”
“It was unacceptable and it was inexcusable,” Lew said, “We’re going to make sure that nothing like this ever happens again.”
Rep. Scott Garrett, R-N.J., told Lew that he found his response to this scandal “disingenuous at best.”
“We can judge for ourselves whether you are really making -- trying to fix this for the future a priority,” Congressman Garrett concluded.
Photos.com/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The current march on Washington won’t fill the National Mall, or see an influx of buses down Constitution Avenue. But what it will do is clog your inbox.
You can only see it on your computer, or mobile device, but it’s out there: a two-day virtual march on Washington with the goal of demanding immigration reform.
“We don’t see this as exclusive of a regular march,” Jeremy Robbins, director of the Partnership for a New American Economy, told ABC News. “It’s 2013 and the way we communicate is broader and different than it was a generation ago, and we want to be able to maximize all the ways we can to push Congress.”
The event, which started on Wednesday and goes until Thursday night, is organized by Mayor Bloomberg’s immigration forces in partnership with President Obama’s OFA (Organizing for Action) and asks viewers to send their senators emails, tweets and Facebook messages demanding immigration reform.
“We tried to leverage all the different social media tools for all the different purposes,” Robbins said, in order to garner attention for the event.
President Obama even retweeted former Florida governor Republican Jeb Bush: “Delaying solutions will only make the problem grow. NOW is the time for immigration reform. Join the #iMarch…”
Twitter chats with Bloomberg kicked things off Wednesday morning. Google hangouts, Mashable and Tumblr are all resources used for the iMarch. The event will live stream music and documentaries with the goal to push people to their website, where they make it easy for users to quickly locate their senator and, with just a click of the mouse, send a message.
One of the things that make this march different, Robbins says, is the flexibility it allows.
“If you are relying just on typical ways of lobbying, physical marches, etc., those are very powerful tools and we use all of them,” he said. “One of the benefits of a virtual match is there are no hotel rooms to book, no permits to obtain…. So you can time the virtual march to when it’s going to be most effective in the debate.”
Just Tuesday the Senate Judiciary committee voted to send the immigration bill to the full Senate for debate.
The launch of #iMarch saw the biggest political thunderclap of all time, reaching over 45 million users. A thunderclap is a way for many users to coordinate their social media messages to post simultaneously.
“We don’t want to pretend that we are starting from scratch, but this is a new area and this is just a start,” Robbins said. “We are going to keep pushing, keep marching and see this through the entire Senate and then see it through the House.”
Peter Kramer/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Ashley Judd may not be running for U.S. Senate in Kentucky, but another possible candidate is thinking about taking on Mitch McConnell, and she has some local star power of her own: former Miss America Heather French Henry.
French Henry, who was crowned Miss America in 2000 and is married to former Lt. Gov. Steve Henry, told ABC News she is being “urged by a number of individuals in political leadership to contemplate the possibility of running for Senate” as a Democrat.
“I feel I owe them the time and consideration to listen to their position,” Henry said in an e-mail. "Is there a political race in my future? Possibly. Is it this Senate race? I am not sure … Over the past year it has become apparent to me that I may enter politics. I have become increasingly concerned about the direction and future of our country. Therefore, I have agreed to meet and discuss all options including a race for U.S. Senate.”
French Henry said her time contemplating a bid “will not be a prolonged process” and she “will make an announcement in the near future.”
French Henry says she is also weighing her responsibilities as a mother of two young children, her work as a dress designer and boutique owner, as well as a philanthropy she runs helping homeless veterans. The last is an issue she is closely involved with and would most likely be part of her platform if she does get into the race.
French Henry did not expand on who exactly she was talking to in Kentucky Democratic politics, but Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., who was Judd’s biggest backer when she was thinking about getting into the race, told ABC News that French Henry would be “an outstanding Senate candidate.”
“She is a real source of pride for the Commonwealth, and her dedication to helping Kentucky families and veterans would provide real contrast to Mitch McConnell in 2014,” Yarmuth said in a statement.
Former Kentucky state treasurer and Democratic analyst Jonathan Miller said he thinks “if she decides to run and surrounds herself with a strong national team, I think she could make a decent run at it,” but he noted he “doesn’t know what her name recognition is now.”
“I know 10 years ago, when she was Miss America and married to the lieutenant governor, it was high,” Miller said, adding, “Anyone running against McConnell will have national support because they are running against McConnell.”
No Democrat has yet stepped forward to challenge McConnell, despite local polling that shows the Senate minority leader with lower than 50 percent in some surveys. Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes is also considering a run for the Senate, and allies of hers say she is still actively making the decision.
McConnell has a war chest of almost $9 million and has already been running ads in the state. Those factors, coupled with the widely held belief in Kentucky and beyond that the race will be very nasty, seems to have stopped candidates from throwing their hats into the ring.
French Henry’s husband, Lt. Gov. Steve Henry, ran unsuccessfully in the Democratic primary for governor in 2007. Some of the controversies that he faced while in office and during his gubernatorial bid are sure to come up if she were to enter the race.
In 2009, Henry accepted a plea deal for misdemeanors related to misusing campaign funds during the 2007 gubernatorial bid. He was sentenced to over $500 in fines and 12 months in jail, but the jail time was suspended on the condition that he avoid further criminal problems for two years, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader.
The newspaper also reports that in 2003 when he was lieutenant governor, Henry paid $162,000 to settle a federal lawsuit that alleged he defrauded both Medicare and Medicaid programs as an orthopedic surgeon.
And it doesn’t end there. After the Henrys were married in 2000, the state auditor found that 25 state employees used 500 hours of their own personal leave, valued at $16,000, to work on the wedding. The Henrys ended up reimbursing the state for over $3,000 in wedding expenses and more than $4,000 in trips that Henry took to the Miss America pageant and the Democratic National Convention.
Miller said he doesn’t think the “significant problems her husband has had will affect her.”
“In the same way I don’t think Bill Clinton’s issues were attributed to Hillary,” Miller said. “They are very different, but I don’t think people will blame the wife for the husband’s failings.”
In 2003, French Henry struck and killed a bicyclist and mother of four as the woman was biking across the street. She told her story on an episode of Oprah Winfrey's show detailing how distraught she was and the emotional toll it had taken on her and her family. There were no charges filed.
Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images (WASHINGTON) -- After a key IRS official Wednesday invoked her Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate herself during congressional testimony, Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa said he will review legal precedent in order to determine whether Lois Lerner, the director of Exempt Organizations at the IRS, could be held in contempt of Congress.
Although Lerner, who’s at the center of the controversy, refused to answer questions from members of the committee, she read a brief statement into the record declaring her innocence. Furthermore, at the request of Issa, Lerner authenticated a document containing her written answers for the inspector general’s investigation of the matter.
Those actions prompted members of the committee to question whether Lerner effectively waived her right to invoke the Fifth Amendment.
“She just testified. She just waived her Fifth Amendment right to privilege,” Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., a former federal prosecutor, said. “You don’t get to tell your side of the story and then not be subjected to cross-examination. That’s not the way it works.”
Although Issa dismissed Lerner, at the end of the hearing he announced that the committee would recess rather than adjourn while he determines whether Lerner should be recalled before the panel.
“Ms. Lerner may have waived her Fifth Amendment rights by addressing core issues in her opening statement and the authentication afterwards,” Issa, R-Calif., said as he brought the hearing to a close. “Although I excused Ms. Lerner subject to a recall, I am looking into the possibility of recalling her and insisting that she answer questions in light of a waiver.”
A Republican committee aide said the application of the Fifth Amendment has nothing to do with House or committee rules, but rather is a constitutional question. The aide said courts have interpreted that the Fifth must be asserted in the absolute, not partially.
“Congress is respective when witnesses assert the Fifth, but if it’s not asserted properly, you’re not refusing to testify based on constitutional protection,” the aide explained. “Because you don’t want to answer certain questions, there’s a potential contempt of Congress.”
Sources also believe Lerner’s decision to read a statement into the record while invoking the Fifth may have been unprecedented for congressional testimony.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the committee, said he does not personally believe Lerner waived her rights with her actions on Wednesday, but he said the committee should look into the issue.
“This is not a courtroom,” Cummings, D-Md., said. “In a courtroom that might have been the case. It’s a legal question.”
Cummings added that Lerner was acting on advice of counsel, and he doubted her legal team would have permitted her to deliver a statement if it would jeopardize her right to invoke the Fifth.
One constitutional expert noted that generally people who claim the Fifth in hearings give no statement and it would be “unusual” to give a statement and still claim the Fifth.
“Most witnesses claiming the Fifth will not tempt fate by answering any questions,” said Michael Gerhardt, a University of North Carolina constitutional law professor who specializes in the relationship between Congress and the executive branch. “I suppose the witness might argue he or she is claiming the Fifth for limited purposes but then needs to have someone spell out the relevant scope.”
MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Bill Nye may be known as the Science Guy, but his Twitter feed reveals that he has another interest: politics.
On Tuesday Nye wondered what Oklahoma senator and well-known climate change denier Jim Inhofe thought about the tornado that devastated Moore, Okla.
Inhofe did not respond to the question on Twitter and was unavailable for comment when contacted by ABC News.
Nye tweeted, "Oklahoma City was hit hard again. Has anyone asked Oklahoma Senator Inhofe about the three large storms in the [past] 14 years?"
Although Nye and Inhofe have not directly exchanged words about the tornado devastation in Oklahoma or climate change, both men have repeatedly made their opposing opinions known.
Nye openly discussed the importance of investigating climate change as the recent tornado system developed across Oklahoma. In an interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan, Nye said that tornadoes were driven by heat, which increases the chances of more dangerous storms.
“You’ve got to figure that if there’s more heat driving the storm then there’s going to be more tornadoes,” Nye told Morgan.
At the other end of the climate spectrum, Inhofe has called global warming “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated to the American people” and argued that Earth is entering a period of cooling rather than warming. During the 2010 Washington, D.C., blizzard, Inhofe and his family built an igloo on the National Mall and placed signs labeling it “Al Gore’s New Home” as part of a GOP response to talks on global warming that were happening at the time.
Gary Gershoff/WireImage(WASHINGTON) -- The GOP's newest opposition-research group has found its first target: Terry McAuliffe.
America Rising PAC, a group devoted to researching Democratic candidates, will look to make its mark on the 2013 and 2014 election cycles, supplying the Republican Party's answer to the Democratic research-only super PAC, American Bridge. Former Mitt Romney campaign manager Matt Rhoades is leading the effort.
McAuliffe, the former Democratic National Committee chairman who is running for governor in Virginia, is now getting the America Rising treatment.
The group on Wednesday posted online 688 pages of emails between Virginia Economic Development Partnership officials and GreenTech Automotive, an electric car company founded by McAuliffe that sought to locate in Virginia in 2009.
The partnership is a board of Virginia business people tasked with bringing business to the state.
GreenTech eventually settled elsewhere, and McAuliffe has since stepped away, but GreenTech's rocky history in Virginia has become a political football in McAuliffe's race for governor.
America Rising has also dispatched its first "tracker" to Virginia, to dog McAuliffe at public events.
The GreenTech emails, some of which were obtained by news outlets through Freedom of Information requests and have been reported on, shed more light and lend more context to the Virginia board's skepticism about McAuliffe's company as it sought economic benefits to locate in Virginia in 2009.
GreenTech has already earned McAuliffe criticism after launching its first plant in Mississippi, not Virginia, and McAuliffe has explained that Virginia officials were not interested in the plan.
According to the emails, Virginia officials continued to entertain the company's pitch because then-Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine and former president Bill Clinton, whom McAuliffe had approached about the firm, supported it.
"In short, it involves Terry McAuliffe, Bill Clinton, and of course Gov. Kaine," Economic Development Partnership vice president Paul Grossman wrote in an email dated Sept. 11, 2009.
"We have great doubts that it is a legitimate project, but because of the players involved are being responsive."
GreenTech, for its part, says Clinton was not involved in the company, except at a ribbon-cutting ceremony in 2010.
The emails also show more of what has already been reported: that Virginia officials were skeptical of a major prospective funding source for GreenTech, the federal EB-5 visa program, in which foreign investors giving a minimum of $500,000 can obtain a U.S. visa if their investments meet certain job-creation requirements.
GreenTech, originally a Chinese firm, planned to use that program to entice Chinese investments. Virginia Economic Development Partnership officials expressed skepticism, as GreenTech pressed for the creation of a Virginia-based EB-5 visa "regional center" -- a required third-party entity to facilitate job creation and allow the visas to go through.
The story Republicans have told about GreenTech is one of a shady firm established on shaky business footing, poised to exploit a visa program to secure funding that might not grow it into a legitimate enterprise. McAuliffe and GreenTech have posed it as a perfectly normal, ambitious business plan.
The visa program, however, is a federal policy designed to incentivize foreign investment, as laid out online by the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services.
At one point, a Virginia Economic Development Partnership (EDP) official wrote that if GreenTech established the visa program in Virginia, it could give a "black eye" to the state.
"If all, or any significant portion, of the investors were to not ultimately receive the visas, that would give the Commonwealth a black eye, in the view of other companies or investors looking for possible business connections with the Commonwealth," the official wrote in an email.
In another email, Liz Povar, the VEDP vice president of business expansion, wrote that, "I maintain serious concerns about the establishment of an EB-5 center in general ... but also still can't get my head around this being anything other than a visa-for-sale scheme with potential national security implications that we have no way to confirm or discount ... I am not willing to stake Virginia's reputation on this at this juncture."
Partnership officials also raised concerns that GreenTech lacked a distribution network and had overestimated revenues.
The investment group "has no demonstrated ability to run an automotive company," VEDP official Mike Lehmkuhler wrote in an October 2009 email.
GreenTech, meanwhile, told ABC News that the economic development group simply wasn't interested in helping a startup.
"If we were where we are now, they would probably welcome us more sincerely," GreenTech CEO Charles Wang told ABC, recounting VEDP's general lack of interest in GreenTech when he met with officials in Richmond. VEDP later apologized to Wang for derogatory comments an employee made about him in emails.
McAuliffe resigned from the board in December. Wang said the company wished him well as he departed to run for governor, and while there don't seem to be any hard feelings with McAuliffe, Wang acknowledged that McAuliffe's campaign has exposed the company to political criticism.
Ultimately, GreenTech went elsewhere, launching operations in Mississippi, where it employs about 100 people. When asked about his decision to open a plant in another state, rather than the one in which he's running, McAuliffe has said that GreenTech approached VEDP and that officials were not interested in bringing the car company to Virginia.
While officials expressed initial interest, and provided GreenTech with a set of possible locations, their conclusion matches McAuliffe's explanation that GreenTech was turned down.
Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who is running against McAuliffe for governor, has used GreenTech to attack his candidacy. Now, America Rising will help Republicans dig through more of McAuliffe's past and promote the most salacious bits of GreenTech's messy history in Virginia.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The New York City mayoral race got much more interesting Wednesday with Anthony Weiner’s entry, asking New Yorkers in a video to give him a second chance and saying that he’s “learned some tough lessons.” His wife, Huma Abedin, is standing next to him with her own pitch: “We love this city. And no one would work harder to make it better than Anthony.”
The video makes it clear that the famously press-shy Abedin -- a longtime aide to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and friend to the Clinton clan -- is on board despite her husband’s fall from grace in 2011 when he resigned from Congress after he was caught tweeting lewd photographs of himself to other women.
But her longtime boss and former President Bill Clinton, who officiated at Weiner and Abedin’s wedding, are staying out of the race. Both of the Clinton camps told Politico that because of connections to many of the candidates, they won’t be endorsing anyone.
“Secretary Clinton knows all of the candidates, she has worked with many of them, and is close with many of them, so won’t be weighing in one way or the other,” Hillary Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill said in a statement to Politico. Bill Clinton spokesman Matt McKenna told Politico, “President Clinton has too many friends in this race who have been good to him and his family. He wishes them all well, but won’t be getting involved.”
New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio is running and was Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager for her 2000 Senate campaign, and whether Clinton is eyeing another run for the White House or not, it would make little sense picking a candidate running against Christine Quinn, who could be the first woman and openly gay mayor of New York, or the man vying to be the city’s second black mayor, Bill Thompson.
Evan Stavisky, a Democratic consultant and a partner at the Parkside Group consulting firm, said their presence could continue to hang over the race because of their connections and stature, but will have little effect if they stay on the sidelines.
“Obviously, when you have two political stars as bright as Hillary and Bill Clinton, and when those two stars are married to each other and living and working in the New York City metropolitan area, their stars shine even brighter and their shadows have an even wider impact,” Stavisky said. “However, the candidates running for New York City mayor are all well known and well defined in their own right.”
Stavisky noted that the Clintons have long held ties in New York all the way back to Clinton’s first run for president in 1992, when he won New York City, helping to win the state, aiding him in his Democratic primary fight against Jerry Brown.
“Anyone running for office with ties to the Clinton family will be defined by those relationships, but the reality is many New York Democrats have ties to the Clinton family…. It’s not going to be a determinative factor in the race.”
A former Hillary Clinton aide from her 2008 presidential run agreed, saying, “I don’t think it will play much of a role at all.”
“I don’t think they are incentivized to play a role and instead I think they are inclined to stay away as far as [possible],” the former aide said. When it comes to supporting Weiner, Hillary Clinton is “damned if she does, damned if she doesn’t.”
The aide is referring to the fact if Clinton is weighing a 2016 run, she won’t want to align herself with someone as scandal-scarred as Weiner, but by not backing him she “risks upsetting one of her closest and longest-serving confidantes.”
“It’s a sticky situation when you look at Weiner alone,” the former aide said. “The Clintons are as a big of a deal in New York as anywhere else, perhaps a bigger deal, but they haven’t really weighed in to contentious or contested races like these.”
There are some exceptions where Bill Clinton has endorsed in primaries, including campaigning last month for Wendy Gruel in the Los Angeles mayor’s race. Gruel conceded to Eric Garcetti in that race Wednesday.
Joshua LOTT/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama will travel to Oklahoma on Sunday to see firsthand the areas devastated by this week’s deadly tornadoes, the White House announced.
The president will meet with families affected by the devastation and thank first responders during his visit to the Oklahoma City area, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters.
Obama has directed his administration to provide all available resources to help in the recovery.
“As a nation, our full focus right now is on the urgent work of rescue and the hard work of recovery and rebuilding that lies ahead,” Obama said in a White House statement Tuesday. “Our prayers are with the people of Oklahoma today, and we will back up those prayers with deeds for as long as it takes.”
A massive tornado struck the suburban town of Moore on Monday afternoon, devastating schools and homes and killing 24 people.
Barbara Buono for NJ(NEW YORK) -- The woman challenging Chris Christie in his gubernatorial re-election bid in New Jersey, Democratic state Sen. Barbara Buono, is out with her first television ad.
The ad begins running this week and is a more than $1 million buy, a Buono campaign aide said.
The ad’s goals are two-fold: hitting her opponent on the state of the economy and introducing herself to voters where she still has low name recognition.
Buono, 59, has had digital ads, including one released this week poking fun at the pronunciation of her last name, but this is the first one New Jersey residents will see in their pricey media markets of New York City and Philadelphia.
“To hear Gov. Christie tell it, everything in New Jersey is going just fine. Well I see another New Jersey with 400,000 unemployed. One of the worst jobless rates in the country. Working and middle class families have seen costs soar, from property taxes to college tuition,” Buono says in the 30 -second ad before introducing her story to New Jersey. “I know that struggle, because I lived it. My dad was an immigrant who worked as a butcher. Working my way through school, I was able to pull myself up. I’m Barbara Buono. As your governor, I’ll fight to give every New Jersey child the same chance I got.”
Despite the financial and polling differences between the two candidates -- Christie, 50, has wide margins in both -- Christie himself put out an attack ad going after Buono last week.
“Meet Barbara Buono. Jon Corzine’s budget chair now running for governor. Buono voted 154 times to raise our taxes,” a narrator says before naming the taxes and pivoting to Christie. “Let’s not turn back the clock. Chris Christie’s record: four balanced budgets, no new taxes for anyone, the best job growth in a decade and the most education funding ever.”
It ends as others have with Christie looking out at the Jersey Shore, a topic that has also come under some scrutiny this week as Democrats have cried foul at separate state tourism ads that feature Christie and his family.
Democrats are calling them publicly funded campaign ads, while Christie supporters point out that they are running outside of New Jersey and the company that made the ads said data research showed Christie would be the most effective messenger.
The ad controversy might be getting some heat from Democrats, but he is still beating Buono by a wide margin in recent polls. A poll out earlier this month from NBC News-Marist has Christie up 34 points over Buono, 62 percent to 28 percent.
Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Lois Lerner, the Internal Revenue Service’s director of the Exempt Organizations who is at the center of the controversy after the agency targeted conservative organizations for gratuitous scrutiny, invoked her fifth amendment right against self incrimination Wednesday at a congressional hearing examining the brooding scandal.
Lerner quietly took her seat at the witness table, standing and raising her right hand as she swore to tell the truth alongside other senior IRS officials testifying at the hearing. When it became her turn to speak, Lerner read a brief statement into the record, declaring her innocence.
“I have not done anything wrong,” she said. “I have not broken any laws, I have not violated any IRS rules or regulations, and I have not provided false information to this or any other congressional committee.”
Lerner then said that while she “would very much like to answer the committee's questions” her counsel advised her to assert her constitutional right not to testify or answer questions related to the subject matter of this hearing.
“Because I'm asserting my right not to testify, I know that some people will assume that I've done something wrong. I have not,” she reiterated. “One of the basic functions of the Fifth Amendment is to protect innocent individuals, and that is the protection I'm invoking today.”
Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the committee, entered into the record written answers that Lerner provided for the inspector general’s investigation. Rep. Darrell Issa, the chairman of the committee, said he had not seen the document and asked Lerner to authenticate her answers. The document was passed the Lerner, who put on her glasses to skim through it.
“This appears to be my response,” she said.
“So it's your testimony?” Issa asked. “As far as your recollection, that is your response?”
“That's correct,” Lerner answered.
Republicans on the committee quickly interjected, challenging that Lerner gave up her right to remain silent and should be compelled to answer questions from members.
“She just testified. She just waived her Fifth Amendment right to privilege,” Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., a former federal prosecutor, said. “You don't get to tell your side of the story and then not be subjected to cross-examination. That's not the way it works. She waived her right to Fifth Amendment privilege by issuing and opening statement. She ought to stand here and answer our questions.”
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Members of the public watching in the committee room applauded enthusiastically.
Issa continued to quiz Lerner, who then declined to answer any further questions.
“Is it possible that we could narrow the scope of questions and that there are some areas that you would be able to answer any questions on here today?” Issa asked.
“I will not answer any questions or testify today,” she responded.
Issa followed up: “Ms. Lerner, would you be willing to answer questions specifically related to the earlier statements made under oath before this committee?”
“I decline to answer that question for the reasons I've already given,” she deadpanned.
Issa then dismissed Lerner from the hearing, and she quickly left the committee room.
When reporters caught up to Lerner in a back hallway as she made her way to her vehicle, she was guarded by a handful of U.S. Capitol Police officers and her legal team, and she ignored questions from the press about her decision to take the fifth.
The frustration over her silence was shared on both sides of the aisle. During the hearing, Rep. Steven Lynch warned Lerner that her silence could compel Congress to appoint a special prosecutor to conduct an investigation.
“If this committee is prevented, by obstruction or by refusal to answer, the questions that we need to get to the bottom of this, you will leave us no alternative but to ask for the appointment of a special prosecutor or appointment to special counsel to get to the bottom of this,” Lynch, D-Mass., warned. “I hope that's not the approach of the IRS going forward because there will be hell to pay if that's the route that we chose to go down.”
While the IG’s report found that the scandal was not the result of political motivations, Issa, R-Calif., criticized the IRS.
“We knew then that something seemed to be wrong. We knew then that there was smoke. We knew then that, in fact, something just didn't seem to be right,” he said. “Many people believe that the IRS is an independent agency. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) -- After the Senate Judiciary passed the Gang of Eight’s immigration legislation Tuesday night out of the committee, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid promised to bring the bill before the full Senate in June.
“I will bring this bill, which is a strong, bipartisan bill, to the floor in June, sometimes soon after we've returned from the Memorial Day work period,” Reid, D-Nev., said on the Senate floor Wednesday morning.
The Gang of Eight’s bill underwent a painstaking 24-day process through the Senate Judiciary Committee during which over 120 amendments were considered. The bill passed out of committee by a 13-5 vote late Tuesday night.
Reid said with the vote the bill has momentum heading into its next hurdle, getting through the full Senate.
“Although neither Republicans nor Democrats will support each and every aspect of this legislation, it's gratifying to see the momentum behind these reforms,” Reid said, “that's how we move legislation forward, for the greater good. Compromise.”
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- Eric Garcetti has won the bid to become the next mayor of Los Angeles.
The 42-year-old city councilman beat City Controller Wendy Greuel in an election on Tuesday. Results posted on the Los Angeles City Clerk’s website show that Garcetti defeated Greuel 54 percent to 46 percent.
"Thank you Los Angeles -- the hard work begins but I am honored to lead this city for the next four years. Let's make this a great city again," Garcetti tweeted early Wednesday morning.
He will replace Antonio Villaraigosa as mayor when he takes office on July 1. Garcetti will be the city's first Jewish mayor and its youngest one.
Alex Wong/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner has finally declared himself a candidate for New York City mayor.
In an ad posted on YouTube late Tuesday night, the democrat says, "I'm running for mayor because I've been fighting for the middle class and those struggling to make it my entire life."
Weiner adds that he hopes he gets a "second chance to work for you," admitting that he's "made some big mistakes" and "let a lot of people down."
"But I've also learned some tough lessons," he says.
Weiner resigned from Congress in 2011 after he revealed that he sent sexually inappropriate texts and photos to women after first denying that he had. His wife, Huma Abedin, an aide to Hillary Clinton, stood by his side.
The couple, who has a 1-year-old son together, are both featured in the new ad, titled "Anthony Weiner for Mayor."
"We love this city and no one will work harder to make it better than Anthony," Abedin says in the video.
Weiner wraps up the ad by saying, "I will fight for you every single day. Thank you for watching."
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The bipartisan Senate "Gang of Eight" held together despite an onslaught of amendments and some efforts to kill its comprehensive immigration reform bill.
The Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday night passed the bill 13-5, largely intact, to the full Senate for a vote.
It is the first step in a series of hurdles for immigration reform that includes increased border security, a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants and reforms to legal immigration designed to streamline the process.
The committee vote was met with cheers of, "Yes, we can," by those in the room.
It took the 18 senators five days for markups and they considered 300 amendments, with many of those that passed doing so in a bipartisan nature. Overall, 48 Republican amendments passed.
"I don't think there has been a markup on such a complex bill that has been this open," Sen Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said during closing remarks.
The entire mark-up was streamed live via the committee website, with active tweeting by the senators and their staffs upon passage or failure of an amendment.
"I appreciate the work of the Senate Judiciary Committee in taking the bill my colleagues and I introduced in April as a starting point for debate," said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a member of the "Gang of Eight." "We have a historic opportunity to end today's de facto amnesty and modernize our immigration system to meet our 21st-century needs. I remain optimistic that the Senate, by improving the bill through an open and deliberative floor debate, will seize this opportunity."
Late in the day, the bill survived perhaps its most serious challenge when the Democratic committee chairman Leahy introduced and then withdrew an amendment that would have granted gay and lesbian couples the same rights as straight married couples to sponsor their foreign-born partners for immigration.
Democrats who supported the notion said they could not vote for the amendment because it would have fractured the fragile, bipartisan coalition that wrote the delicate legislation.
Republicans said they would walk away if the amendment was included, resulting in Leahy vowing to fight the battle another day.
"So, with a heavy heart, and as a result of my conclusion that Republicans will kill this vital legislation if this anti-discrimination amendment is added, I will withhold calling for a vote on it at this time," he said. "But I will continue to fight for equality."
There were few, if any, significant changes made to the original "Gang of Eight" bill.
One major addition was the biometric entry/exit at the 10 U.S. airports with the highest volume of international air travel within two years of the bill's passage.
A deal struck between Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Tuesday could triple the annual number of temporary visas for workers in highly skilled fields like engineering and technology, and was enough for Hatch to give the full bill his support to leave committee.
It will now head to the full Senate for more debate and a vote.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., indicated he wouldn't stand in the way of the immigration bill coming to the floor of the Senate after getting out of committee.
"With regard to getting started on the bill, it's my intention, if there is a motion to proceed required, to vote for the motion to proceed so we can get on the bill and see if...we're able to pass a bill that actually moves the ball in the right direction," McConnell said Tuesday at the Ohio Clock stakeout. "I think the 'Gang of Eight' has made a substantial contribution to moving the issue forward. So far, I'm told that the Judiciary Committee has not, in any fundamental way, undone the agreements that were reached by the eight senators. And so I'm hopeful that we'll be able to get a bill that we can pass here in the Senate."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Tuesday praised Leahy for doing a "masterful" job of moving through the bill.
President Obama also applauded the movement of the bill to the full Senate and said its principles are "largely consistent with the principles of commonsense reform I have proposed and meets the challenge of fixing our broken immigration system."
"None of the committee members got everything they wanted, and neither did I, but in the end, we all owe it to the American people to get the best possible result over the finish line," Obama said in a written statement. "I encourage the full Senate to bring this bipartisan bill to the floor at the earliest possible opportunity and remain hopeful that the amendment process will lead to further improvements."