A House committee hearing examining the Internal Revenue Service's alleged targeting of conservative groups turned heated Wednesday when the panel's Republican chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa, aggressively questioned a former IRS official even after she invoked her 5th Amendment right not to testify.
The incident prompted Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, to launch a tirade against Issa, accusing him of running a "one-sided" and "un-American" investigation.
Issa rejected Cummings' request to speak and abruptly adjourned the hearing. When Cummings protested, Issa stormed out of the room.
Cummings continued to shout and speak for several more minutes, even after his microphone had been turned off.
"Mr. Chairman, you cannot run from a meeting like this,'' he said, adding: "You just cannot do this. We're better than that as a country. We're better than that as committee."
Cummings excoriated the committee's investigative procedures, accusing Issa of making unsupported claims about Lois Lerner, former director of the IRS Exempt Organizations Division. Lerner refused to testify Wednesday, as she did in a similar hearing in May 2013.
Cummings said Issa, of Vista, Calif., was persisting with the panel's IRS investigation despite even though, he said, it had uncovered no evidence to back up claims that conservative groups were targeted for their political beliefs.