IRS Scandal: Senior Official Will Take The Fifth Instead Of Testifying

A key official in the IRS scandal will invoke her Fifth Amendment rights against self incrimination instead of answering questions on Capitol Hill tomorrow.

Lois Lerner, who oversaw the IRS division that apparently profiled Tea Party and other politically conservative groups for extra scrutiny, was due to testify before the House Oversight Committee.

Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller, who testified before a Senate panel today, has continued to insist that there was nothing illegal about the targeting of Tea Party groups who had applied for tax-exempt status, although Lerner has hired a criminal defense attorney and it was that lawyer who notified the House committee that she would be taking the Fifth instead of fielding questions from lawmakers. Her lawyer contends that she has committed no crime or made any misrepresentations, but that an open criminal investigation rules out her testimony. In addition to investigations in Congress, the FBI has launched a criminal probe of the IRS in connection with this controversy.

A spokesman for the committee chair Darrell Issa (R – Calif.) commented on this development: “The Committee has been contacted by Ms. Lerner’s lawyer who stated that his client intended to invoke her 5th amendment right and refuse to answer questions. Ms. Lerner remains under subpoena from Chairman Issa to appear at tomorrow’s hearing — the Committee has a Constitutional obligation to conduct oversight. Chairman Issa remains hopeful that she will ultimately decide to testify tomorrow about her knowledge of outrageous IRS targeting of Americans for their political beliefs.”

Lerner created an uproar on May 10 when — in response to a planted question at a tax conference — she apologized for the heavy scrutiny of right-of-center political groups in advance of a Treasury Department Inspector General’s report that deemed the practice inappropriate and the result of poor management. Learner also was the official that apparently quickly approved the charitable status of the Barack H. Obama Foundation in about a month while Tea Party groups often waited two or three years to get the okay from the agency.

Separately, the White House time line about the controversy appears to have changed: “Just a day after telling reporters that chief of staff Denis McDonough and other senior White House staff learned of the situation nearly a month ago, press secretary Jay Carney revealed Tuesday that White House officials had consulted with the Treasury Department on how to make the findings public … Carney said there was ‘discussion about the possibility of a speech’ by Lois Lerner, who oversaw the IRS’s work on tax-exempt groups, and conversation about testimony by the acting commissioner of the agency and ‘what he would say’ if asked about the issue.”

Do you accept the IRS premise that ideology was not involved in the extra review of Tea Party tax-exempt applications?

[Image via Shutterstock]

Added: Watch the IRS hearing live stream: