MSNBC.com Grouses 'Christie Aides Double Down' on 5th Amendment; No Such Concern with Lerner

When Obama IRS official Lois Lerner yet again pleaded the Fifth Amendment last Wednesday rather than answer challenging questions during a congressional hearing, the liberal media stifled yawns. To the extent the March 5 hearing was covered, media attention turned to the post-hearing fireworks between ranking member Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) rather than the substance of the questions Ms. Lerner refused to answer on the record under oath.

Fast forward to Monday afternoon with MSNBC.com lamenting how "Christie aides double[d] down on Fifth Amendment" in a state investigative probe of the Bridgegate scandal. Here's how staff writer Aliyah Frumin reported the story [emphasis mine; see screen capture below page break]


 

Two of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s former staff members will attempt to convince a judge on Tuesday morning that they shouldn’t have to hand over documents related to the seemingly politically-motivated lane closures on the George Washington Bridge.

Lawyers representing Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie’s fired deputy chief of staff, and William Stepien, his former two-time campaign manager, will make their cases in Mercer County’s state Superior Court before Judge Mary Jacobson.

Kelly and Stepien have both pleaded the Fifth Amendment, insisting that handing over any information to the New Jersey legislative committee investigating the September lane closures would violate their rights against self-incrimination. They also point out that they are being investigated by federal authorities and handing over information that could reveal personal information unrelated to the bridge closures.

According to a court filing from Friday, lawyers for the legislative panel argue witnesses cannot “assert a blanket refusal to comply with a subpoena” and must raise “specific objections to particular questions or requests.”

Meanwhile, attorneys for Stepien and Kelly have criticized Assemblyman John Wisniewski, a Democrat who is co-chairing the panel investigating the lane closures.

“That a politician armed with subpoena power and spoiling for higher office—particularly one who has openly prejudged his investigation and whose counsel is consulting with federal prosecutors overseeing a similar investigation … is a problem for another day,” wrote Stepien’s attorney Kevin Marino in a legal brief.

Lawyers for Kelly wrote in a filing on March 6 that Wisnieweski has participated in a “rush to judgment,” citing him for telling the press that “laws have been broken,” closing access lanes is a “crime” and using the words “cover up.”

Wisniewski told msnbc.com he’s confident about the argument the panel’s lawyers have put forward and that “there’s no rush to judgment. There’s a rush to ask questions.” 

Kelly, of course, had written the now-infamous email in August calling for “some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” the town on the New Jersey side of the George Washington Bridge. Correspondence has also shown Stepien calling the mayor of Fort Lee an “idiot” and suggesting he may have been aware of the plan to close the lanes back in September.

The state legislative panel has issued a total of 38 subpoenas to key members of the Port Authority and Christie’s administration and campaign. But information has been slow to roll in, with Kelly and Stepien pleading the Fifth Amendment and others being granted extensions.

By contrast, a search of msnbc.com for "Lois Lerner" mentions between March 5 and today yielded plenty of hits, but none of the stories focused on Ms. Lerner's "doubling down" on pleading the Fifth. Indeed, it was Mr. Issa who was put in a negative light (emphases mine)

  • Issa apologizes to Cummings for hearing clash
  • Congressional Black Caucus wants Issa out as committee chairman
  • Issa's 'dead end'
  • Congressmen clash at IRS hearing
  • Issa, Cummings clash at IRS hearing
  • Issa shuts down his own IRS hearing
  • Live Video: Former IRS Official Lerner appears at hearing

"LIVE VIDEO — Lois Lerner, the former IRS Director of Exempt Organizations, is expected to appear at a House hearing aimed at looking into the agency’s targeting of political groups," read the tease at the last link shown, which was posted at 9:54 a.m. Eastern on March 5 and simply included an embed of the live testimony video feed.

Last Wednesday, of course, it was widely believed that, absent a grant of immunity, Ms. Lerner would continue to plead the Fifth rather than cooperate with the House Oversight Committee's investigation, something MSNBC.com editors could have noted in their tease.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters