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)

    It's just outrageous, trying to find tax cheaters...just because they are associated with the most corrupt people in America (GOPers)! That damn IRS...trying to catch tax cheats, what were they thinking!? Oh yah...they were doing their job.

    May 21, 2013 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  2. tayllor1234

    The Obama criminal administration makes me so proud...... to be an Independent, but embarrassed to be an American.

    May 21, 2013 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  3. Just

    Nice. A senior IRS beaurocrat who pleads the 5th. That is just another disgusting example of an out of control IRS.

    May 21, 2013 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  4. DaveinIL

    Give her immunity and ask her some tough questions. This whole thing stinks of political machinations with someone else like David Axelrod as the man behind the curtain.

    May 21, 2013 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
  5. Jay Tome

    Didn't she read the White House Memo? "The law is irrelevant...." Silly girl, no need to plead the 5th Amendment, that's what criminals do.....whatever you violated is "irrelevant". Go check your inbox, read the Memo silly.

    May 21, 2013 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  6. John The Electrician

    Issa knew about this in 2011-a good waterboarding is called for.

    May 21, 2013 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  7. DaveinIL

    Anybody want to bet that Obama will spend the week in Moore, OK and make disaster speeches to avoid press questions about the IRS, the AP, etc?

    May 21, 2013 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  8. Juanito

    Lerner pleading the 5th protects only her, for the time being.

    It will only harden the resolve for further investigation as there were a lot of others who had to have participated( or just followed orders).

    It's still chilling to know that this department can not only create and enforce regulations that could fine or imprison a citizen but also have the ability to exercise its discretion at will, without oversight.

    As for liberals who rally to the defense of saying the organizations targeted shouldn't be exempt anyway, remember that your team just happens to be the flavor of the month, and plenty of your groups are no less guilty of what the cons are doing. The pendulum swings both ways

    The far right can not only say 'TOLD YOU SO!', but they can now say with certainty: the IRS is out to get you.

    May 21, 2013 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  9. whatsup

    Taking the Fifth huh? Why would she do that if she had nothing to hide? She knew, hell, she probably ordered it.

    May 21, 2013 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  10. DB

    If anyone believes that the Obama administration will let this woman testify against them then I have a bridge I wish to sell them as it is a good deal. Why is it that it seems like a monthly, if not weekly since the election, we have a new crisis where the Obama administration appears to be directly connected. Obama might not be the person who pulled the trigger but those around him sure look guilty. When things stink it is a good idea to look at the source. There is just to many major things that keep popping up all the time where Obama has to try and defend himself. I laugh when I see the results of the last election and the counts from the poles. How can any pole report more than 100% of registered voters and then 130% of that pole voted for Obama and absolutely no votes for Romney. Then you ask a black or white person who they voted for and it sure falls on mostly racial lines. I thought this nation was trying to stamp out racism, and here it is bold as everl

    May 21, 2013 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  11. Jaimie

    Do not trust a single one of them. Ever see a poor politician?

    May 21, 2013 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  12. theytukrjobs

    What frightens me most is that liberals seem okay with the government violating our laws and constitutions as long as it is done to hurt people that don't agree with them.

    I realize that Obama isn't "Hitler" and people aren't being gassed here, but there are fundamental similarities being demonstrated by our government today with totalitarian regimes through history. Try to imagine where this thing will be in 20 years when you consider how much has changed in the last 6.

    We are setting a bad precedent by "going along" with a government that has so obviously taken a turn for the worse.

    May 21, 2013 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  13. Robin Jones

    This probably won't be the last time some IRS manager or administration official pleads the Fifth Amendment. Let's just hope that some of the "lower-level staff" that are being blamed for this and thrown under the bus get fed up with taking the blame for their superiors and provide a barrage of truth.

    May 21, 2013 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  14. iab

    Please folks make an attempt to get all of the facts. No one knows everything, not even Issa. It is true he is on a witch hunt, he and his do nothing buddies have been at it every since the night Obama's was sworn in. Do a little research, names are mentioned, the mission of the participants. Boehner, Mcconnell were not there, Gingrich was. They all made a pledge they would not support Obama in any way. Their hatred is so deep they would rather discredit one man rather than do what is BEST for the 310,000,000 Americans. We need to get rid of these old archaic dinosaurs, they do nothing as far as solutions to our problems, situations. No constructive suggestions. How can such insecure men rally to destroy one man. They sure in the hell fear him other wise they would not constantly strive to undermine him in every way. If they could send the KKK after him as they used to do when a person of color had a brain, intelligence years ago they would. For those of you who have no clue the House (which is made up mostly of lawyers) writes the laws in favor of themselves and their donors. The house and senate ignore the needs, wants, of the 300,000,000 Americans. Check how they voted for gun law changes when over 60% of Americans wanted deep background checks, smaller clips etc. The wishes of the Americans ppl were ignored. We have a DO NOTHING CONGRESS so please vote them out get some women and forward thinking young Americans who do not have all the hatred, racism in their hearts. PLEASE.

    May 21, 2013 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  15. Kamikaze

    Transfer of blame. The only way to survive in government. Unfortunately we will never know who is responsible.

    May 21, 2013 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  16. erin

    I'd rather think that it is a wise policy to give an extra attention to the "tax exempt" application from groups that are openly against the taxes!!! It is a productive use of our tax money and had a potential to generate more income for the country and lower our debt.

    May 21, 2013 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  17. Payd

    Problem with liberals is they rat themselves out far to often. A conscience may in fact be the greatest defining variable between the ideology of the political parties. Best kept secret in America is that the biggest political party are the Independents.

    May 21, 2013 10:23 pm at 10:23 pm |
  18. erin

    Every attempt that could crack on cheating organizations like Tea party is justified. We are paying taxes, those crooks claim that they are a non-political organization and wanted to be tax exempt?! That is purely outrageous!!!

    May 21, 2013 10:23 pm at 10:23 pm |
  19. Thomas

    @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.


    The GW Bush administration would never even acknowledge the possibility of wrong doing ,

    Remember Scooter Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice in 2007 ?

    May 21, 2013 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  20. noly972

    She's just angling for them to exempt her from prosecution if she'll talk.

    Confucius says, "It's much more comfortable on the bus than under it."

    May 21, 2013 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  21. Matt

    This is not an admission of guilt. But let's face it, it's pretty much an admission of guilt.

    May 21, 2013 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  22. Thomas

    @Liberal Sense (Or lack thereof)
    I bet democrats still think SNL, Comedy Central and NBC are actual legitimate news sources.


    Not me , I turn to Fox to get the real facts , from a real news service !

    May 21, 2013 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  23. Jim

    Using the 5th amendment to not incriminate yourself is not the act of a coward. It is invoking a most basic and fundamental part of our constitution. Why give away any information for free, ever? The prosecutors have to prove the case, it is not the responsibility of a suspect to help the case laid against them. Make the prosecutors do their job. That is why they get a paycheck.

    May 21, 2013 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  24. birthmom

    i am curious What evidence is there that she tried to stop the practice. I have read she may be heavily involved in Starting the bigotry. she has history of political harassment in previus FEC job.

    May 21, 2013 10:34 pm at 10:34 pm |

    absolutely disgusting. it shouldnt be OK for high ranking public officials to get away with despicable felonies just by not talking. waterboard her

    May 21, 2013 10:34 pm at 10:34 pm |
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