IRS official to plead the Fifth at congressional hearing
May 21st, 2013
04:54 PM ET
5 years ago

IRS official to plead the Fifth at congressional hearing

(CNN) – The official in charge of an embattled Internal Revenue Service division will invoke her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination during a Wednesday appearance before a House oversight panel, a spokesman for the committee said.

Lois Lerner, who oversaw the IRS division handling requests for tax-exempt status, made her intentions known in a letter to the committee's chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa. Lerner was the first IRS official to publically admit that the tax agency was using extra scrutiny on conservative groups applying to become tax exempt.

"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," the committee's spokesman Ali Ahmad wrote in a statement. "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 revealed during a question-and-answer session at a meeting of the American Bar Association a week and a half ago that the IRS was targeting conservative groups when assessing applications for tax exempt status. Later, officials at the agency said the question that prompted Lerner's response was planted as a way for the information to become public.

Her disclosure came days before the release of an independent inspector general's report, which indicated Lerner learned about the conservative targeting in June 2011. While she took steps to stop the practice, lawmakers want to know why she didn't notify members of Congress.

“While we respect Ms. Lerner’s use of the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment, we are disturbed she saw fit to trample over our First Amendment rights by harassing us and many other groups for our views,” Jenny Beth Martin, the co-Founder and national coordinator of Tea Party Patriots, wrote in a statement Tuesday.

Filed under: Darrell Issa • IRS
soundoff (282 Responses)
  1. Complete ignorance

    Folks, please don't forget to take your medication. You're not thinking clearly & it's important to stay on top of your meds.

    May 21, 2013 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  2. jrm03063

    There's no lawyer in the land, that would let their client speak to a committee like Issa's, if there was even the most tiny possibility of a criminal charge. The guy's a witch hunter if there ever was one – so why put yourself out there?

    May 21, 2013 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  3. Liberal Sense (Or lack thereof)

    I bet democrats still think SNL, Comedy Central and NBC are actual legitimate news sources.

    May 21, 2013 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  4. Larry L


    I don't think that the 5th should apply to higher ups in Govt. The 5th is a tool to protect a citizen from the Govt. If you work for the Govt., you are the Govt. You should be held accountable for your actions at any level.
    Worse than pleading the 5th is not having to answer any questions at all. When Dick Cheney was shown to be cozy with Ken Lay in the 60 days prior to Enron's fall nobody ask any questions. When he pushed for (and got) a huge bonus for Haliburton after the DoD IG found them cheating the Government – nothing. When he championed the "Haliburton Loophole" law to give his company exemptions from telling the EPA about their fracking pollutants – nobody was outraged. When Cheney falsified intelligence date to start the Iraq War resulting in 4,500 Servicemember's deaths he didn't go to trial. In relation to those things I suppose an IRS executive can plead the 5th.

    May 21, 2013 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  5. the fish rots from the head

    Can you say Special Prosecutor??? Yes, I knew you could. The Obama administration is in very deep doo doo if this woman spills her guts.

    May 21, 2013 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  6. Thomas

    @just sayin
    ok she's pretty much admitting she violated the law. start digging and find out what she was doing and who she was speaking with
    Darrell Issa knew – he ordered the investigation, was she speaking to him?

    Water Bored them both till they nail Obama !
    Also ask her about Benghazi and why we need to upgrade our I phone apps !

    May 21, 2013 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  7. Rick McDaniel

    Yeah right.........the little guy, following orders, has to hire a lawyer, and plead the fifth........while the bosses that gave the orders, walk scott free.

    May 21, 2013 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  8. Larry L

    I have yet to hear anybody say the believed the Tea Party radicals WEREN'T likely to be cheating on their taxes and SHOULD be granted tax exempt status. Political targeting is absolutely a serious violation of the trust we place in government agencies. Still, the Tea Party is a radical PAC for the GOP and the "outrage" doesn't eliminate that fact.

    May 21, 2013 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  9. Steve

    Continue to investigate this and go after criminal convictions if enough is found. The truth will come out. Hiding behind the fifth amendment is Lawyer speak for Do not incriminate yourself. Keep going news outlets and investigation. This story smells.

    May 21, 2013 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |

    @Larry L. I don't believe for a second that Ken Lay is dead.

    May 21, 2013 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  11. vonrik

    Well done! Speak of no talk to any of those loser in congress. TEA PARTY = SCAB

    May 21, 2013 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  12. Anonymous

    THe fact that I had to use a magnifying glass to find this story on says all I need to know about this story. It's bad for Obama. Thank god for Fox News!

    May 21, 2013 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  13. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Issa's head is going to implode after her third " I plead the Fifth..." just like on that movie "Mars Attacks".
    I can't wait for the that little s hit to get blown off like so much dirt.

    May 21, 2013 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  14. Stellar17

    If Issa, the leader of the "inquisition" wants information, I suggest he reviews every application for tax exempt status since the Supreme Court triggered an opening up the of the flood gates, that resulted in a vast increase in applications from all these groups trying to avoid taxes. Then we can learn the percentages of Conservation apps were denied versus "other". If the law was broken by the IRS we want proof and if political activists applied to obtain tax exempt status they were not entitled too, they should be prosecuted also. Meanwhile, Lerner can invoke her 5th amendment rights any time she wants, just like every other citizen in this country. Her choice, not ours.

    May 21, 2013 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  15. truth hurts but reality bites

    A high IRS government official pleading the 5th should tell all of the American people there are criminals running their government and they need to be uncovered and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, even if they happen to be residing in the White House. We are a nation of laws and it is high time that fact is enforced on this lawless administration.

    May 21, 2013 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  16. Roscoe

    "don't think that the 5th should apply to higher ups in Govt. The 5th is a tool to protect a citizen from the Govt."

    Which is to say that Gov't officials are something other than citizens and probably even sub-human – likely spawned from apes. Makes sense in an uninformed, ape-like way.

    May 21, 2013 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  17. Marie MD

    Somebody PLEASE ask or remind issa that he is a car thief and was found with an unregistered bun which he didn't shoot but he did point at someone.
    I can't believe the people in CA would vote for this guy.

    May 21, 2013 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  18. concerned american

    anybody notice how the government is using the same tactics that BP and any huge corporation use when they get in trouble? The CEO's deny they knew anything and in the end nobody is really held accountable other than maybe one or two people getting fired. All I hear from jay carney is that the white house didn't know about this. How can ignorance and stupidity be the benchmark for the federal government and our country's highest office. I'm ashamed at the actions of our leadership. Accountability and integrity are all but forgotten nowadays and its a disgrace. President Barrack Obama I don't know you can sleep at night knowing that your administration is trampling on the rights of American citizens with your tyrannical ways. My only is guess is you don't give a damn

    May 21, 2013 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  19. Ceswho

    This has to be the most corrupt administration in modern history. And the main stream media refuses to cover it. Where is CNN's coverage of the Arizona Attorney General (former chief of staff to Napolitano and appointed Attorney General by Obama). It has been established that he tried to smear the Fast ans Furious whistleblower and then lied to Congress about it. He is now facing disbarment because of it. It seems that anyone who is closely tied to this admin.lies,obfuscates and intimidates. This country deserves better even liberals should demand answers.

    May 21, 2013 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  20. Ghostwriter

    It's like the WWE,Obama's got the belt and Boehner and McConnell wanna have a cage match.

    May 21, 2013 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  21. eviltaxpayer

    Yep the IRSS is following obamas promise of "TRANSPARANCY" I see.

    May 21, 2013 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  22. fred mertz

    congressman Issa didn't leave 4 americans to die in lybia, nor did he sic the IRS against americans and spy on reporters at the AP and FOX NEWS.. THAT would be the OBAMA ADMINISTRATION.......LED BY OBAMA.

    May 21, 2013 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  23. cindypress

    the option go tell the truth

    May 21, 2013 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  24. gahh

    Tell the truth, it was all Karl Rove's idea.

    May 21, 2013 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  25. Pete

    Another dog and pony show orchestrated by Issa and republicans..When will people out there say quit this crap and do something,anything to benefit America like jobs,infastructure bills and you conservative morons out there wanting Pres.Obamas head you think these hearings are free,boy have you got some learnin to do!!Tax exempt 501(c)(4) is a tax exemption given to a group(s)that uses social welfare to help benefit communities,just what has any extremist group like the teaparty or anyone related have done benefitting any community,absolutely nothing !!Quit the rouse or get the full brunt of IRSs rath because after the republican majority led SCOTUS agreed on passing Citizens United all bets are off and you know it..Audit all these bastards they deserve it!!

    May 21, 2013 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
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