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. davecu

    More fodder for throwing under the bus.
    Those guilty will walk as usual and some mutt will "take one for the Gipper".

    May 21, 2013 10:38 pm at 10:38 pm |
  2. JC

    Considering this is congress she's asked to appear before. Makes sense to me. The last thing happening in that room is any thought about finding truth. Would you trust them if you were in front of them. Not me. Multiple blind independent investigations is the only way to find the truth here. Need at least three or four because the politics will rip apart the results if it doesn't agree with their political position. You get three or four investigations to agree and it is kind of hard to say they are all wrong. (Though I am sure someone would)

    May 21, 2013 10:49 pm at 10:49 pm |
  3. John Mackley

    The IRS targeting certain groups (and the ever-changing, ever-expanding story here) and the DOJ targeting the press are quite scary; no matter what side of the aisle you're on. Ben Franklin had it right: "When the people fear the government there is tyranny. When the government fears the people there is freedom." I have no doubt that there is tyranny in our land the past 15-20 years.

    May 21, 2013 10:50 pm at 10:50 pm |
  4. Obamasux

    come on lois,, give up the obamunist,,, we all know he was the one who gave the order.

    May 21, 2013 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  5. JC

    Reading the responses. I'm not sure the American people even want truth. Everyone has drank their particular brand of Kool-Aid. Red or Blue anyone?

    May 21, 2013 10:53 pm at 10:53 pm |
  6. NativeUSABorn

    Of course she will plead the fifth she works for the Transparent Hope and Change Obama administration.

    May 21, 2013 10:57 pm at 10:57 pm |
  7. John

    Here is how I would parody the answers I have heard so far from IRS officials that have testified before congress:
    Congressmen: Could you tell me what date it is?
    IRS official: Yes, the month is the month after last month and the month before next month. The date is the date after yesterday and the date before tomorrow.

    After listening to the IRS officials I quickly realized that they spoke a lot and said nothing.

    May 21, 2013 11:11 pm at 11:11 pm |
  8. king

    i wonder how the repubs will twist this little ammo. hey Obama called her and told her to tell everyone under her supervision to target conservatives. i wonder if she has any tea baggers under her command. where does these people come from. how can a manager over thousands of people, most of them republicans issue an order to target conservatives, when her boss who ran the IRS is a conservative. how dum does these repubs think the American people are.

    May 21, 2013 11:16 pm at 11:16 pm |
  9. Really?

    Question 1. Why does the Tea Party want tax exempt status? oh yeah they're the tea Party,
    Question 2. Why does the IRS not want to give it too them? oh yeah its the IRS....
    So whats the issue? meanwhile the rest of us are paying taxes.

    May 21, 2013 11:18 pm at 11:18 pm |
  10. Bill

    Documentation that Obama ordered this isn't far off now.

    May 21, 2013 11:20 pm at 11:20 pm |
  11. mike

    Give her 22 years in federal prison and no early release if she refuses to rat on everyone including her bosses.

    May 21, 2013 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  12. Tom

    Lerner learned of the targeting in June 2011 and took steps to stop it. Beyond that I think she should protect herself from Issa who will twist the questions and the truth. Issa cannot be trusted to get at the truth. It is his version of the truth that he is after.

    May 21, 2013 11:22 pm at 11:22 pm |
  13. trapped in a Liberal hell hole (CALIF)

    Say it's not so! Superman is about to throw Lois under the bus!

    May 21, 2013 11:25 pm at 11:25 pm |
  14. Dig daddy

    This must be the Transparancy Obama promised. There are no better liars in the world then liberals, it's all they know how to do.

    May 21, 2013 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  15. MIke S

    5th = guilty

    May 21, 2013 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  16. Kris

    Again, for a 'party' that seems to shout about the Constitution and our rights, these Tea Party idiots can't seem to understand that none were violated in this. Unless they mean to state that they couldn't spend tax-exempt donations on political statements, which is against the law.

    May 21, 2013 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
  17. Ican Heare

    @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 |

    I am a democrat and I'm having to seek out FOX news to get the coverage I'm seeking for this story. I'm annoyed that CNN isn't covering this more. This is a big deal. I don't care if you are democrat, republican, or independent, the actions by the IRS are just plain destructive. I'm also annoyed that my daughter, who loves journalism and politics, is afraid to post comments on any media sites. She is too young to understand that she is not going to be targeted for being critical of the White House. She only sees what has happened to AP and FOX journalists and feels intimidated. Thanks a lot to the leaders in D.C. that have made my daughter feel a substantial fraction of the fear that citizens in communist countries feel. Thanks a lot for throwing a dagger into the shield of democracy. I've always been on the fence with politics and I think I might lean Republican the next election.

    May 21, 2013 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  18. Scott

    The guy who was running the IRS was appointed by Bush and he gets to retire with full benefits... Maybe he did this to pin it on Obama because he knew he could walk away with no consequences....Issa and Bohner told him to so it... I hear there are memos out there where they all discussed it... I haven't seen them but that does not mean anything... Hows that for a conspiracy theory?

    May 21, 2013 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  19. Mak

    I do not care if she was as pure as Snow White, with nothing to hide, she has nothing to gain and everything to lose by speaking. Unless they're willing to give immunity, this girl isn't going to talk.

    May 21, 2013 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm |
  20. michael

    Yeah, I wish I could plead the "5th" when being audited by the IRS for a $4.99 error on my tax return.


    May 21, 2013 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
  21. And No Religion Too

    Let the unraveling begin. I'm old enough to remember being furious during Watergate. I'm more furious now. This administration wins – the filthiest, most corrupt presidency in modern times. I don't care what your voter registration card says, if you can't see the non-stop lies and insane actions from this president you are either incredibly delusional or incredibly stupid.

    May 21, 2013 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  22. Cjb

    She's already been caught lying to the committee. It's time for a special prosecutor. Ask the grunts who instructed them to do this – they'll spill the beans on their bosses' boss.

    May 22, 2013 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  23. Shaun P

    "I plead the fif"

    May 22, 2013 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  24. Rabies

    Sorry. I do have a follow up. Why are you all letting party affiliations come in to play when we are talking about something wrong in government. Well, you are attacking the President, but it is not as bad as what Cheney did. Can you imagine getting a traffic ticket, going before the judge, and saying, "It may have been speeding, but they were going faster than me". Get over this party stuff. Corruption is corruption. I don't care who is in office. We need to stand up and say, "You work for me. I expect you to follow the laws like everyone else." Stop being party members, and start being Americans. Stand for what is right. It is not about politics. This is about our expectation as Americans that our leaders start acting with integrity. When something is wrong, say so. Using the IRS to target your enemies is wrong, and you all know it. We need to stand up for Truth, Justice, and the American Way. End of story.

    May 22, 2013 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  25. Dave

    How can a federal employ plead the fifth?

    May 22, 2013 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
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