Lois Lerner of the IRS was recently called to testify in front of Congress. She rightly recognized that speaking to the government is, generally, not a good idea:
Lois G. Lerner, the head of the IRS tax-exempt organizations office, said in advance of Wednesday’s testimony she would assert her Fifth Amendment privilege and refuse to answer questions from House members during committee hearings about the IRS’s targeting of conservative nonprofit groups.
Lerner then appeared before the committee, read a prepared statement, and said she was invoking her Fifth Amendment rights.
“I have not done anything wrong,” Lerner said in her statement. “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.”
“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 said. “One of the basic functions of the Fifth Amendment is to protect innocent individuals, and that is the protection I’m invoking today.”
The only problem with this is that by making any statement at all, Lerner may have waived her Fifth Amendment rights. There’s a bit of a debate going on about this, so I’m not entirely sure what the outcome will be. It sounds like a witness is allowed to say a few things, such as where Lerner asserts her innocence, without waiving any rights, but that may be tested here. For my two cents, I hope they do test her and I hope she stands her ground. I hope she then wins the overwhelming right to continue with her day unmolested by government questions. Because, of course, the only reason these congresspeople would call her back would be to intimidate her with the backup of embarrassment. That is, calling her back would be for the sake of daring her to take on the government, something they hope she doesn’t do. Then, if she does do that, the backup plan is to simply embarrass her by virtue of shining a public spotlight on her lack of testimony – congress and everyone else damn well knows that guilt is assumed of those who refuse to testify against themselves.