Lois G. Lerner plead the fifth in today’s House hearing, stating that she has done nothing wrong. The House Committee on Oversight is exploring allegations that the Internal Revenue Service’s tax-exempt organizations department, unfairly targeted conservative groups.
As head of the tax-exempt organizations department, Lerner was called to testify about her knowledge of the targeting. As reported by the Washington Post, she stated:
“I have not done anything wrong. I have not broken any laws. I have not violated any IRS regulations. And I have not provided false information to this or any other committee.”
Lerner refused to speak further, invoking her Fifth Amendment rights, upon the advise of her attorney. The Fifth Amendment of the US Constitution protects witnesses from testifying against, or incriminating, themselves in court.
Committee chairman Darrel Issa questioned her decision, but eventually dismissed Lerner from the hearing. Committee member Trey Gowdy objected to her dismissal, pointing out that she already waived her Fifth Amendment rights, when she opened with remarks about her innocence.
Issa stated that the Oversight Committee will discuss the matter at a later date. He reminded Lerner, and her attorney, that she may be recalled to testify if the committee decides she waived her rights.
Lerner was required to make an appearance at today’s hearing despite her intention of pleading the fifth.
Other witnesses testifying today include Douglas Shulman, former head of the IRS, J. Russell George, inspector general for the Treasury, and Neal Wolin, Deputy Treasury Secretary.
Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin testified that, in 2012, he knew the IRS was under investigation, but he had no idea why. He maintains that he did not do anything to interfere with or hinder the investigation.
The details of the scandal were revealed when Lerner publicly stated that the IRS unfairly investigated non-profit organizations, known to be conservative. As reported by Politico.com, it has become “biggest public relations debacle to face the IRS in years.”
Lerner plead the fifth at today’s hearing, but she may have to testify at a later date. She continues to deny any involvement in the scandal.