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IRS official to plead the Fifth before House Oversight Committee

By Peter Schroeder and Bernie Becker 05/21/13 08:30 PM ET

Lois Lerner, the Internal Revenue Service official at the eye of the storm over the improper scrutiny of conservative groups, will refuse to answer questions from the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday.

Through her attorney, Lerner stated her intention to invoke her Fifth Amendment rights after being called to testify.

“She has not committed any crime or made any misrepresentation, but under the circumstances she has no choice but to take this course,” her attorney, William W. Taylor III wrote in a letter to Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.).Her refusal to testify is the latest roadblock slowing lawmakers’ efforts to get to the bottom of the targeting of Tea Party groups.

Lerner, the head of the IRS’s exempt organizations division, was clearly going to be pressed by lawmakers about the honesty — or otherwise — of her previous responses before Congress on whether the IRS had targeted Tea Party groups.

She has already apologized for the imbroglio, but the Justice Department has launched a criminal probe into the matter. Lawmakers have repeatedly contended that IRS officials, including Lerner, misled Congress about its existence.

“We’re going to review with her what road she led us down previously,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), before news broke of Lerner’s refusal. “To be able to go back and review with her what she said previously versus what she might say on Wednesday, that’s going to make for an interesting exercise in contradictions.”

Both parties have criticized Lerner for being less than forthcoming with Congress. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) has called for her resignation, after she did not disclose the targeting in response to a direct question from the lawmaker at a hearing — two days before she publicly apologized for it.

A spokesman for the Oversight Committee noted that Issa has issued a subpoena to compel Lerner to appear before his panel Wednesday, even if she refuses to answer questions.

“The committee has a Constitutional obligation to conduct oversight,” said spokesman Ali Ahmad. “Chairman Issa remains hopeful that she will ultimately decide to testify [Wednesday].”

But if Lerner stonewalls Congress, it would exacerbate the frustration lawmakers feel about being stymied by tax collectors.

Wednesday’s hearing will mark the third in less than a week in which lawmakers have probed current and former IRS officials, but members are still searching for answers to a few critical questions. How did the IRS come to adopt the practice of singling out Tea Party groups for added scrutiny? What was the motivation behind filtering out the groups: partisan politics or poor judgment?

Current and former IRS officials at the top of the agency have so far been unable or unwilling to answer those questions, and lawmakers on the Oversight Committee had hoped Lerner could finally shed light on the matter.

After all, she was the IRS official who first thrust the matter into the spotlight, apologizing at a legal conference a week and a half ago for the improper targeting. And the report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) on the practice found that she directed IRS employees to stop using explicit Tea Party criteria in identifying tax-exempt applications for further scrutiny, back in June 2011.

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IRS Official Invokes 5th Amendment During Congressional Hearing On Scandal, Napolitano Cavuto

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Published on May 22, 2013

MS. Lerner May Have Waved Her 5th Amendment Right By Making Statement During Congressional Hearing
IRS Official Invokes 5th Amendment During Congressional Hearing On Scandal – Napolitano Cavuto

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